We lost because of several important reasons. (but we don’t see it as a loss now because we’ve since gotten every single writeup fixed after working at it for about a month)
(this is very complex and long, but it could save you on your next brand new rig)
1. The Alaska Lemon Law is VERY specific. You must write the manufacturer and the dealer a letter stating specifically the following:
That you demand a refund
That there are the following nonconformities: (things that are broken)
…etc
That you demand your money back within 10 days of the letter

What we didn’t do:
We did not write the dealer because we had already asked them 4 times to give us our money back.
Because our rig was in their shop for the winter to get things fixed and we did not want them to sabotage it or have it impounded and we knew the manufacturer was working with them to get it fixed.
We had already written the manufacturer an email previously that said we wanted our money back and the manufacturer had a conversation with the dealer to tell them we wanted our money back.
You must write both letters within 60 days of your first year’s warranty expiring.
They have 30 days to get all nonconformities fixed.
They must have made at least 3 attempts to repair the nonconformities we complained about in the letter.

2. The lawyer on their side got about 8 mechanics and the service manager to lie about the attempts they made to repair the rig. They lied about our complaints dating back 3 years that we had been smelling septic that long. (they didn’t start writing the complaints about the shower leaking and the septic smell until the last year before we wrote the letter)
They had not wanted to work on the septic or the shower so they never wrote these complaints on the workorders.

3. We did not receive any work orders until just before we wrote the letter, so we never saw what our workorders actually said. We had to piece these together for court which was very complicated and took months. Their workorders were not accurate. We only got to see workorders after our lawyer asked for discovery documents. The workorders were an absolute mess! It was hard to figure out which of the hundreds of writeups were completed and which weren’t.

4. After we wrote the letter, we asked for permission to go on the lot and get our personal effects out of the rig. They said we could. Reason: we wanted to get our stuff out – we were afraid they would have it impounded and we would lose all our camping gear. Their lawyer lied in court and said we abandoned it. We called that fall to ask how repairs were going and to ask where our rig was because we had not seen it on their lot for about a month. They sounded nervous and said they were waiting on parts. I asked if I needed to report it stolen. They really acted nervous then.

Their lawyer made me look like a liar in court because I never got to explain why we went and got our stuff. (when you are testifying, you explain your side, then they try to defend their side and they can say whatever they want about you). Their lawyer said we abused it and neglected it, and we were in closing arguments so I never got to explain.

You can see by the way it looks that we never abused it or neglected it.

5. We had bought a Leprechaun from them before, and we had loved it and their service manager had taken very good care of us. He left, and the owner hired a “friend” as a service manager who basically put them out of business with his lousy management skills. The service manager lied on the stand about us saying we were really happy with the way they handled our service, and he said I never told him about the septic smell and the leaking shower until right at the very end of it all. (I could not defend this very well afterwards because they never gave us any workorders. A lot of the writeups we told them about over the phone or even in person never got written down. We had trusted them because of our previous experience. I will always get a signed workorder after repairs from now on, believe me. No trust anymore!)

6. We had witnesses that had worked there who overheard the service manager call us whiners and pains in the ass and that the septic smell was all in our heads. (they later found the gray water valve pipe was completely broken off and that the septic’s vent valve had never been installed at the factory)

7. The dealership was out of business halfway through the court case, so we had to drop them from the suit. But the manufacturer still used all their liars on the stand. Not sure what the motivation was there for them to testify, but it had something to do with Anchorage being a small town and them trying to protect their professional reputations. However, the only good mechanic they had quit the business altogether and went to the North Slope to work in the oilfields. Luckily, we found out during his deposition that he had been the one to finally fix the shower leaks and the septic smell. We had never known if it was ever fixed or not before that. He was the only one we trust to tell the truth.

8. I said, during my testimony that I had told my husband that the one thing we were not going to do was lie, if we were going to pursue this. We told the truth through the whole thing. I have a very good memory, so I was able to piece together every single incident.

9. During his closing arguments (so that I could not defend myself with rebuttal testimony), their lawyer tried to make us look stupid first by saying we wrote up a couple of items like Sirius Satellite radio doesn’t work and the 6 CD changer isn’t working (we don’t get sirius satellite in Alaska because there are no towers in Alaska and the rig never had a 6 CD changer in it though these were two things our salesman said it had).
The lawyer for the manufacturer also tried to make it seem like our witnesses were disgruntled employees. We could tell he was worried about these witnesses because they had worked for the dealer until they were laid off and had overheard all the remarks about us made by the service manager and his “cronies.” They also knew that the dealership refused to do much of the work because the manufacturer was not going to reimburse them if the work was repeat work Everyone else was eventually laid off anyway, so it didn’t really hold water.

These two witnesses were some of the most honest and best service writers you would ever want to meet. So because the lawyer did it in closing arguments, no one could rebut what he said. He tried to make me look like I was the only one who thought the rig was a Lemon, though the service manager had referred to it as a Lemon around the shop and then testified he didn’t believe in the Lemon Law and that there is no such thing as a Lemon. The lawyer in his closing arguments also made it look like the hundreds of writeups on our rig was normal for an RV this size. (our Leprechaun had maybe had only a dozen cosmetic issues in its first year).

10. We had paid $2,700 for a 7 year extended warranty, but the dealership told us that our warranty was up after a year. (the rig had 2300 miles on it when we bought it because it had to be driven Washington state and the salesman said he would extend our warranty because of the mileage.) We never got that extension, and we never received the extended warranty we paid for.

11. Coachmen Industries sold their Coachmen RV division to Forest River just after we filed suit. They put 18 million dollars into a warranty fund to cover warranty claims on RVs that had been sold to customers before they sold the RV division to Forest River. In their Proxy (the document that explains the sale), Coachmen Industries said they were responsible for the units they sold before they sold Coachmen RV. They did not put enough money into the warranty fund to cover claims for people who bought extended warranties because that fund was being depleted by a million bucks a month and will run out this December. What did Coachmen do with the other 70 million bucks? They filtered it through Coachmen Industries to pay off debts and fund their housing division.
Not only is this deceptive, but bad business.
We could not find anyone from the original Coachmen RV industry who would testify to the Proxy so we could not admit it as evidence.

These are just a few reasons why we lost. And I believe the jury was tired of the whole thing by the time it was over because they only deliberated about an hour. They probably just wanted it all to be over, too.

What I recommend to anyone buying a new RV:

1. Don’t take delivery on an RV that already has problems. We had a huge crack across the windshield and a bunch of other problems, and it just went downhill from there. Everytime we said we wanted our Leprechaun back and our money back during the walkaround, they kept saying they would give us free winterization and free oil changes and so on. We trusted them because of our previous experience with our Leprechaun.
DON’T TRUST ANYONE. Get everything in writing, because you may have to go to court someday to prove it.

2. Test drive your rig. They would not allow us to do that, but we trusted them. Ours had hydraulic fluid spewing out of the engine on the way home and a Check Engine, Oil overtemp, and Digital readout Check Engine indicator on the way home. (home is only 15 minutes away).

3. GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING THAT THE SALESMAN SAYS.

4. If you are going to buy a new RV, buy it in a state that has a Lemon Law that covers RVs.

5. Get an extended warranty through Goodsam, instead of your dealership. The manufacturer could go out of business and take your extended warranty with them.

6. If you are thinking of filing a Lemon Law Lawsuit, make sure you know the law in your state and satisfy the notification requirements TO THE LETTER. In your notice letter that demands a refund, LIST EVERY NONCONFORMITY, not just the ones they have tried to fix several times.

FINAL NOTE ABOUT OUR CASE: One of the jurors intentionally followed our lawyer into the elevator after the verdict was read. He wanted our lawyer to let us know that the whole jury was with us the whole way. They felt like we should have been reimbursed, but because they did not make the connection that the manufacturer is ultimately responsible for the actions of its dealers, they could not vote in our favor.

It’s too bad our lawyer did not make sure they understood that the manufacturer is ultimately responsible for the kind of service you receive from a dealer. The jurors thought it was the dealer’s fault and not the manufacturer. This was a technical error, but my husband was not well enough to go through another trial. So we agreed not to pursue another trial or appeal in exchange for not having to pay their attorney’s fees ($26,000 freaking dollars…give me a break). It was worth it not to have to pay that.

Make sure your lawyer makes it very clear during trial that the manufacturer IS responsible for the work their dealers do. The buck stops with them always.

Ok, I warned you this was long and drawn out. Will I ever sue anyone ever again? No, probably never.

Is our rig perfect? No. Apparently when they had it in their shop that last time, someone took it for a joyride and put an extra 1,000 miles on it and an extra 100 hours on the generator. They also spilled something all over our brand, new pillowtop mattress and left a big, red stain on it. It was filthy when we got it back, with someone else’s urine all over the toilet. (we had given it to them clean when we took it in). Also, our signature sportscoach mudflap that went all the way across the back was missing and the clamps were bent really bad, as if someone had taken it down a rough road and tore it off. Cost to replace it from the company in Indiana that originally designed it: $500.00. We decided to go with some Freightliner mudflaps installed by our local Freightliner dealer, since the chassis is a Freightliner. So, it now has mudflaps behind the dualies and looks fine. They only cost $11.00 apiece and a little bit of labor to install.
The underside of the chassis looked like someone had driven on some very muddy and rough roads, so we had a technician at our Freightliner service dept inspect and lube and test the engine and chassis just to be safe, as we did not know what the dealer did to it.

The dealer blew up our batteries two winters in a row, (they kept leaving the batteries on all winter through -20 temperatures) and this last time they put the wrong batteries in there. So I just spent about 3 days cleaning and painting the battery trays and installing new batteries for the cabin.

We found out, after we took our first trip in it, that the refrigerator does not cool on AC but only propane. So it will have to go to the shop to fix that.
Note: After taking it in to service this, we found out someone had unplugged our fridge behind a service panel. We know this was intentional because we had never had problems with the fridge and it is nowhere near any of the work they had done.

Other than that, it looks like they fixed everything else.

7. Learn your rig, inside and out. Get a good manual and read the manuals for the rig again and again. Check out every single inch of your own RV. Don’t let other people be the only ones who know how to fix it. Learn how to winterize and dewinterize it yourself. Keep all electronics and such clean and perform as much of your own preventive maintenance as you can.

8. Salesmen are liars. Mechanics can be liars. Lawyers will do anything to win. (including lying themselves and encouraging their clients to lie)

Don’t let other people walk all over you, like we did. I am not being negative. Just stating the facts for us. Maybe it could help someone else.

Sorry this was so long! Told you it was going to be complex!!!!

Have a great RVing kinda day….

xoxo

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