Lemon Law for Emergency Vehicles

A “lemon law” for emergency vehicles. When I first saw the headline, my reaction was: why didn’t I think of that? The concept of a lemon law for emergency vehicles is now a reality in New Jersey, believed to be the first state to adopt such a law.

Typical lemon laws cover non-commercial (passenger) vehicles, and require the manufacturers of covered vehicles to replace or buy-back “lemon” vehicles that have experienced either repeated mechanical problems or long periods of being in the shop. States differ on the specifics of lemon law coverage and conditions.  New Jersey’s law applies to a new vehicle that has one or more defects that continue to exist after three repair attempts or after the vehicle has been out of service for a total of 20 days, during the first two years or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first. New Jersey’s previous “Lemon Law” exempted emergency vehicles from coverage.

The new law was originally introduced in the New Jersey legislature in 2008 after an ambulance purchased by the Flanders Fire Department and Rescue Squad in Mount Olive Township, encountered persistent problems with its drive train, leading to long periods in the shop. Working with legislators, emergency responders across the state rallied the necessary support, and the bill was signed into law by Gov. Jon Corzine on January 19, 2010. The bill covers fire trucks, ambulances, police cars and other emergency vehicles. It includes a provision requiring manufacturers to cover the cost of rental vehicles for vehicles that are out of service for a covered lemon law “nonconformity” (problem).

Congratulations to everyone involved in this effort.

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About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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