Sunday, October 25, 2009

NCLC Conference

This past week I attended the National Consumer Law Center's consumer law conference in Philadelphia. The conference provided three days of intense education on a variety of consumer law issues. It was well worth my time and money. I especially enjoyed the various session on the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FRCA). Credit report errors and identity theft is such a growing problem and the presenters on this important topic really knew their stuff. I can't wait to be able to use some of the tips and tactics I learned in my own practice. There were approximately 800 attendees from all over the country including 300 first time attendees such as myself.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Lemon Law Update

Its been a very busy summer with work and vacation so I have been remiss about posting to the blog. The good news is that GM and Chrysler have both done the right thing for consumers with lemon law complaints. GM and Chrysler have both picked up (and continue to settle) lemon law complaints pending prior to their bankruptcy filings. For the "New Chrysler" you have to go through a process of substituting the successor company in place of the "old car" company as a party to the lawsuit. Moreover, you agree that only lemon law claims survive and not claims for punitive or exemplary damages.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Good news for Chrysler and GM lemons

It now looks like both Chrysler and GM will continue to work through lemon law complaints in spite of their respective bankruptcy's. With respect to GM, I am still working with their Business Resource Center on settling cases as well as one of their main outside firms. They even honored an arbitration award I obtained at a hearing just prior to the bankruptcy filing (even though the arbitrator's decision was not filed until afterwards).

With respect to Chrysler, things are looking up but still a little unclear. Chrysler has filed a motion with the bankruptcy court asking for permission to allow the "new Chrysler" to assume pending lemon law cases under certain conditions. One of the conditions is that punitive damages will not be available.

Stay tuned for further developments but kudos to these companies for honoring these important obligations. Please remember, if you have a lemon, don't trade it in for a loss or pass off the problem to someone else. Call me and learn about your rights.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bankruptcy and Lemons

Hmmm. Maybe the bankruptcy of Chrysler and GM will not be the end of pending lemon law claims against these two manufacturers after all. I have read some articles indicating that the new Chrysler entity will continue on with these type of claims as well as product liabilit claims. Moreover, I filed a case against GM about two weeks ago and despite the bankruptcy filing I received a letter from their dispute resolution center about resolving the case? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Good tips for good consumers.

The internet is packed full of information to help consumers in all types of situations. Information overload is easily contagious. Thus, I thought I would list some general tips that could be of benefit in almost any circumstances. These are my "Rules" as developed through years of law practice and my own personal experience:

1. Read and understand before you sign. This seems obvious, yet I regularly have clients in my office who did not realize they had signed various documents such as arbitration agreements. Any reputable business person will respect and patiently accomodate you desire to read through the documents you will be signing and will gladly answer your questions.
2. Ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask questions. If you always find yourself having trouble asking questions then try remembering the 5 W's: Who, What, When, Where and Why. Simply use one of these words to begin your question, for example: "What does arbitration mean" or "Why is that model being discontinued" or "Who do you have for references."
3. Get copies. Get and keep copies (or where applicable originals) of everything you sign as well as all other items such as invoices, estimates, payment stubs or receipts, work orders, warranties, owners manuals, letters etc.
4. Document problems and issues. In addition to always following Rule #3, you can help assure that any problems or issues are properly documented by taking pictures or video and even keeping a small diary or calendar of the matter. It is often a good idea to follow-up important phone calls or meetings with a letter confirming what took place.
5. Get proper advice. Do your homework. This may include researching matters on the internet or calling up friends or family to get their input. However, don't be cheap with your time or money. Deciding whether to buy a $200 lawn mower may not merit seeking professional advice but entering into a home improvement contract or dealing with a harassing creditor does.
6. DO NOT CO-SIGN A LOAN. Think long and hard before you help out a family member or friend by co-signing a loan for them. I have personally witnessed the financial and emotional havoc that occurs when these loans go bad.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bankruptcy Watch Part II

As most readers know by now, Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on April 30. This certainly comes as no surprise. Chrysler does have a nice website you can link to for information on the bankruptcy including court filings. I am still reading throught the many docket entries but there may be some glimmer of hope for lemon law cases settled just prior to the bankruptcy filing but not yet consumated and even for those cases still in litigation. Stay tuned.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Looming Auto Bankruptcy: What now?

It now looks like we may know by next Thursday whether Chrysler will seek bankruptcy protection - check out the following article: What can consumers, lemon law attorneys and others do to protect themselves. Some of the following options come to mind:

1. If your vehicle is still covered under the manufacturer's warranty and you have ongoing defects - get the car in for service asap - it may be the only "benefit" you see.

2. For cases that are in the process of settling - needless to say get them wrapped up quickly. In fact, it may already be too late for Chysler.

3. Whether it is Chrysler or GM it would seem prudent to insist in a buy-back case, that any loan payoff checks come directly to the attorney's office or given to the client at the time of turning in the car. This was they can be immediately deposited and then sent to the finance company to payoff the loan once the check clears. I am going to be cautious about having a consumer turn in the car and then rely on the manufacturer to send the check to the finance company afterword. What a disaster it would be if the consumer turned in the car and then say GM filed for bankruptcy BEFORE the check made it to the finance company?!!!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Auto Bankruptcy Fallout

I have practiced lemon law since approximately 1997. I never imagined I would see a time when the bankruptcy of Chrysler and General Motors was a real possibility. General Motors in particular was just too big, too iconic and just plain too American to fall so far that such an option would even be considered. Yet, here we are on the brink.

General Motors has certainly been an important part of my life both professionally and personally. On a professional level, I have successfully handled dozens of lemon law claims and lawsuits against GM, who in my opinion is one of the fairest automakers to deal with. On a personal level, my families current two vehicles (Pontiac Bonneville and Chevy Avalanche) are both GM vehicles as were the two we owned before them.

I have to say that I believe a double standard is being applied to the automakers. As many have pointed out the Government can not seem to funnel enough money to AIG because among other things, "they are too big to fail." Bankruptcy, however, is seen as a good choice for these autmakers because it will allow them to force concessions out of their workers and suppliers, not to mention debt holders. Yet clearly neither GM nor Chrysler acted with the same recklessness as AIG and many banks. Where have our priorities gone? What is to come of the thousands of dedicated workers and their families employed by the automakers and their suppliers.

Moreover, what is too come of the thousands of people who currently own GM and Chrysler vehicles that still have remaining warranties? My understanding of the Government's plan for backing the automakers warranties is that it only applies to those vehicles purchased after March 30. This apparently leaves people like myself (my Avalanche is only 17 months old) in the cold, having to absorb repair costs out of our own funds. I guess we are not part of the overall recovery plan? What is to come of my current clients who have pending litigation against one of the automakers? Will the Government intervene when their cases come to a grinding halt? What about the thousand of new car dealers who face not only dismissal sales but now may be the only party "left standing" for some period time. Are they to be expected to make warranty repairs out of their own pockets? Do they now become necessary parties to lemon law cases under other possible legal theories even though the original purpose of lemon laws was to hold only manufacturers responsible?

God bless General Motors and Chrysler and their employees and dealers. This is one lemon law attorney who is praying and hoping the make the greatest comeback of all time - for all of our sakes.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Up and running.

Welcome to my new (and first) blog. As the title states, this blog is intended to be all about the study and practice of consumer law. I greatly enjoy practicing various types of consumer law including lemon law, debt collection abuse, predatory lending and bankruptcy. I also enjoy criminal defense work. I hope to write many informative articles on this blog that will be of interest to consumers and other lawyers. I welcome all tasteful discussion on this important subject.