Auto Lemon Law Eligible? – Chrysler Recalls 644,354 Grand Cherokee and Durango Vehicles for Brake Defect

by Harry Bradley on April 8, 2014

Jeep Brake RecallChrysler admitted last week that the braking system in its Grand Cherokee and Durango vehicles contains a defect which can allow water to enter the brake booster and “limit the braking ability of a vehicle.” As identified in NHTSA Campaign Number: 14V-154 this recall affects hundreds of thousands of vehicles for 2011 through 2014 model years, but what does it mean for owners considering the lemon law for the Jeep brake recall?

Does the Jeep brake recall mean you now have a lemon?

In several complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) owners described the brake problem as significantly reduced braking ability with a stiff or sticking brake pedal and a hissing sound coming from under the dash. A description of these complaints can be found at the NHTSA’s consumer site Safercar.gov. A defect which causes reduced braking is a significant problem so many owners may wish to seek relief under the lemon law to help return or resell the defective vehicles, but are they eligible?

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The Auto Lemon Law after an Opportunity to Cure

Under the car lemon law, a defect which may cause a problem at some point in the future is not treated the same as a defect which has already caused a problem or continues to be a problem. In other words, did the malfunction happen already, or is this brake problem not yet apparent? This distinction makes all the difference in a lemon claim. Due to the requirement that owners raise their concerns with the dealer or manufacturer before pursuing a claim, you may not yet be eligible if the malfunction hasn’t yet occurred in your vehicle. Under the lemon law, vehicle defects are actionable only after the dealer has tried and failed to fix them. If you haven’t seen the problem, you probably haven’t yet asked your dealer to fix it so you may not yet meet this requirement. However, if you are like many owners who previously complained about the brakes only to receive a “no problem found” diagnosis, Chrysler’s confirmation of the defect is great news.

The Defect is Now Confirmed!

According to complaints filed with the NHTSA, many car owners described the limited braking and hard pedal as intermittent but nevertheless made repeated complaints to their dealers. Dealer service departments reviewed these complaints but often returned a diagnosis of “no problem found” or “could not duplicate” with no work performed toward a fix. This is not the call expected from the dealer in response to a significant problem as stated by at least one owner who claimed to have rolled through a stop sign due to the limited braking. (See NHTSA Complaint No: 10575105). Despite the significance of the issue, many owners’ attempts at a correction were stymied by the intermittent nature of the defect. Dealers often claim that they can’t fix what they can’t see, but statements like these indicate more of an unwillingness to perform lengthy diagnosis than an absolute inability to find the problem. Now that the problem has been confirmed and an actual defective part identified as the likely culprit, you may have the key evidence needed to prove your case.

Will This Recall Finally Fix My Brake Problem?

Maybe you’re only interested in the fix and not a lemon claim. You would rather keep your vehicle if it operated correctly. After all, you bought the car in the first place because you liked it. Why not keep it? The answer is: because this may be the final solution to the brake issue, or it may not be. Consider this: only a month ago on March 4, 2014, Chrysler issued a similar recall for Grand Cherokee and Durango vehicles experiencing the loss of braking issue (NHTSA Campaign Number: 14V-104). In that recall the cause of the stiff brake pedal was determined to be an “out-of-specification” Traction Control Isolation Valve, a completely separate cause from the present recall which is blaming a defective brake booster. Chrysler also previously issued at least 3 brake-related service bulletins (TSBs) for the 2011-2013 Grand Cherokee and Durango brakes for complaints of squealing and thumping noises and improper caliper mounting hardware. Did Chrysler get it right this time or will they issue yet another recall or service message in the future? If you’re certain they’ve got it right this time, keep driving. If you’re uncertain, and I think you should be, you ought to consider ending your relationship with the troublesome vehicle and use the relief available in the lemon law to help you.

Time to File a Lemon Law Claim

If you have taken your vehicle to the dealer on at least three prior occasions complaining of brake problems, you are now likely eligible to make a claim. Never mind that the dealer may have changed no parts or performed only limited diagnosis on those previous occasions. The defining criterion is that you made the complaint and presented your vehicle for repairs. The responsibility for proper diagnosis and repair falls upon the manufacturer and its authorized dealer. If you’ve taken your vehicle to the dealer and made complaints, that is enough to prove they had a reasonable opportunity to cure. Providing that opportunity, combined with proof of the existence of a defect, are the primary requirements to succeed on a lemon claim. Now that the defect has been proven, those who have been waiting patiently will be able to part ways with a vehicle that may contain a questionable braking system.

The requirements for proving a lemon or breach of warranty aren’t easy, so once you’ve met the requirements you’ve probably had enough. If you’ve had unresolved brake issues in the past and want to make a change, the lemon law can help you. Please contact an attorney to discuss your options. Most consumer attorneys provide a no-cost initial consultation and will advise you whether you are able to return the vehicle for a refund, or seek monetary damages to help with resale. You needn’t continue to wait for a cure that may never come.

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