How We Lost Our Lemon Law Lawsuit and How Our Experience Could Help You

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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

Do You Think Your RV Or Car Might Be a Lemon?

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I wrote this journal entry in early 2009 after learning a LOT about the Lemon Law from personal experience. Hope it keeps you safe.

Here are some links that might be of interest to you. (they all open up another window so you can come right back here and keep reading)

Thinking about buying a vehicle and wondering which ones fail more? This graph will shock you.
Check out Mercedes and BMW!!! (holy crap, is what I thought)
Take a close look at this graph:

http://www.normantaylor.com/images/lemon-law-graph-1.jpg

This lawyer, Norman Taylor, has a Lemon Law book online. Educate yourself before you buy your next vehicle:
READ THIS BOOK BEFORE YOU BUY YOUR NEXT VEHICLE.

http://www.normantaylor.com/lemon-law-book”
He also has an excellent blog here:

http://www.normantaylor.com/blog/

Buyer be VERY aware! This article is written from experience. I cannot give you the full details of my own experience, but I did feel like it was important to tell you where we went wrong so you don’t make the same mistake.

These are things we never really thought about because we trusted our dealership. We are in a unique situation here in Alaska because we have very few dealerships and very little competition. If you live in the lower 48, it is worth it to travel to another state if you just can’t get the information you need.

First and foremost we learned: DO NOT TAKE DELIVERY IF YOU SEE OBVIOUS DEFECTS WITH IT. That was the most important lesson we learned. Just because the dealer had been great about repairing our previous vehicle doesn’t mean squat. Technicians quit, new ones are hired, and new service managers take over. Don’t take the chance they’ll do what they promise. Just don’t. Ask for your trade-in back and cancel the sale until they get everything fixed. If they try to muscle you into taking it anyway because they “might sell it to someone else,” don’t bite that hook. Demand your money back and/or your trade-in. Don’t sign the sales paperwork. DON’T sign the sales paperwork until you have done a thorough test drive and walk-around check. If you did still take delivery of your vehicle, it doesn’t mean you won’t have a Lemon Law case. It just helps you in the beginning before you ever take delivery. The dealer and manufacturer still have an obligation to you to make your vehicle conform to warranty items in the first year.

In order to protect yourself, think in turns of delivery. Where did the car or RV come from? The factory, of course. In the factory, during and after it was assembled, it had a factory checklist of some kind. Those who were inspecting it noted things that were not working correctly or did not look right. A quality inspector then initialed next to those things found. In that checklist, there were notations about whether the broken items would be fixed on the spot or fixed at the dealership.

Let’s say that some items were supposed to be fixed at the dealership. You now have both a transportation document that indicates if anything was damaged in transit, and you also have a dealership invoice.

After that, you have a service document that tells you what things were supposed to be fixed at the dealership before you decided to buy it.

With me so far? We never saw ANY of these documents before we bought the vehicle we’ve been stuck with. If we had seen them? We would have NEVER bought it.

Let’s just say that you buy the vehicle and it starts breaking. And it keeps breaking, and it is out of service more than it is in service. The Lemon Law is there to protect you.

Did you know that you can demand your money back, in the month after your warranty runs out?

While you own the vehicle, keep track of invoices and dates the vehicle went into the shop and came out of the shop. Keep a list of your own of how many times something has been attempted to be repaired. Is it more than 3 times in the first year? You are entitled, under the Lemon Law, to get either your money back or another unit to replace yours.

The Law protects you. Demand your money back or a replacement unit, stating that your unit has nonconformities. Ask a lawyer the best way to do this. He/she will probably send it by certified return-receipt mail. If they ignore you, see a lawyer who specializes in Consumer Protection Cases. Not sure where to find one? We just called several law firms in the area to find out who specializes in these types of cases. The lawyer you see will tell you whether or not your vehicle is a lemon and has a chance in court. Very few vehicles do qualify as a lemon, but yours could if it can’t be sold on the market as it is, has had one or more repairs that have been attempted at least 3 times, and you are just getting nowhere with the service department.

Hopefully, the companies you are suing will settle before you go to court, or they could decide to sit down at an arbitration table and discuss alternatives to litigation. But if you have kept exact documentation, and you have proof the unit is defective and has been attempted to be fixed 3 separate times, you could be entitled to 3 times the price of the item, plus attorney’s fees, if you win the case. The results are for a jury to decide. Every case is different. Whatever you do, if you are in a Lemon Law lawsuit, DO NOT SELL the vehicle or let it get repossessed by the bank. You’ve just lost your case, if you do this. Case after case has been lost this way.

Don’t let the manufacturer’s lawyers or the dealer’s lawyers bully you. They might try to settle with you by offering a ridiculous settlement, but if you can have a tough skin and live through it all – their obligation under the Law is to reimburse you what you paid for the vehicle. Period. And they will try to make you feel you don’t have a case, especially during deposition. But don’t let them win. They’re used to bullying plaintiffs. Ignore them and let your lawyer do his/her job.

You will also want to keep track of people’s names where you tried to get your vehicle repaired because they will probably have to testify in court.

The unit also has to be in such a condition that it is not marketable. In other words, you could never sell it because of all the problems it has.

Another thing you must know if you are considering buying a used vehicle:

The Lemon Law does not apply to used vehicles, at least not in the same way. There are some rights you have as a consumer, so ask a Consumer Protection attorney to help you. And Car Fax services don’t tell the whole story of a vehicle. If the vehicle was involved in an accident that was not reported, you’ll never know it.

There’s also something Mr. Taylor talks about on his website in which manufacturers who have to buy back Lemon Law vehicles try to resell them without full disclosure.

Best bet if you can afford it: Buy new. I know there are a lot of people out there who say buy used a couple of years old because then all the kinks are worked out. You might also consider buying used if your next door neighbor or best friend has a vehicle for sale, and you know a lot about the vehicle. But one of the worst cars I ever owned was a car I bought from a guy I served with in the military who was going overseas. He sold me the biggest piece of crap I’ve ever owned. He never put oil in it, so its cylinder heads collapsed shortly after he sold it to me.

We also bought a car from a dealer for our daughter. Car Fax told us nothing about this car being a previous rental car. It was also a junk car. We found out too late. The dealer preyed on our need to help her get credit and a car so she could drive to work.

Do research on the State Lemon Law in your state. Many of them are very much alike from state to state, but some states don’t recognize the Lemon Law for RVs. So, buy your RV in a state that does. Even if you did already buy a lemon in a state that does not have state lemon laws, you can still sue under the FEDERAL lemon law. Here’s a list of states concerning the Lemon Law for RVs:


http://www.ohiolemonlaw.com/rvll-site/rvll-state_laws.html

Here’s a book you can buy on the Lemon Law as well: (you can get one from Amazon as cheap as 3 bucks)




Click on Book to Order A Copy

Know your rights. You could be getting screwed because you are naive, like we were.

Don’t let someone do this to you. You deserve to get a good product when you pay for it. You can return defective products when you buy them in a store. Why not get your money back or get a replacement for a crappy car or RV or 4- wheeler or whatever? It’s the law. Called the Fair Trade Law. Look it up.

You can also write a letter of complaint to your state’s attorney general. The dealership and the manufacturer could be fined for every act of deception. Read up on the Fair Trade Act in your state and the Lemon Law Statute. Want to research your state’s Lemon Law statutes and Fair Trade Act? Visit your local courthouse. Ask to see the laws or ask where you can view them. It is your right to get what you pay for. Don’t let fear or uncertainty keep you from fighting for your rights.

Go even further. File a complaint with the Fair Trade Commission here:


https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/

They don’t work on your behalf to resolve complaints, but they do keep track of companies breaking the law and use the information to prosecute.

And on the other side of the fence, if you’re a car or RV salesman and would like to sell a vehicle by having an edge over other dealerships, have this information available to the buyer.

Whether it is a new or used vehicle you are selling, give them all the information about the vehicle from the time it was in the factory until now. That would impress ANYONE!

Hope this helps you.

Lynne

Chapter 1: An End That Became A Beginning and Leaving Alaska

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And so the beginning grew out of an ending. A very painful ending at that.

The ending of three, long, painful years of waiting and believing. We believed justice would come, but I know now that justice is an elusive and fluid thing. It is too full of human elements to really spring from the full truth or total honesty.

We had spent a long, painful year after we bought what I began calling, “The Hog.” We had previously owned a Class C motorhome, a Leprechaun, that we really loved. We liked to camp in remote and very cold places in Alaska, so the Leprechaun was not quite what we had hoped in some ways. We kept running out of fresh water, filling up our black and gray waters, and we often drained our fuel tank running our generator for a weekend. We often got very cold because the Leprechaun just wasn’t equipped for cold, late fall nights or early spring nights.

The Leprechaun we really loved at first…

The “Hog” was a this huge, towering beast of a thing. Both beautiful and frightening to me at the same time. And she came with hundreds of broken items. A broken windshield, a strong septic smell everytime we camped, a leaky shower, cranky automatic jacks, and the list continued. She was frightening to me because she was so complex. We had thought the Leprechaun complex when we first purchased it. We had read the manuals for about a month before we started camping in it. So many things to know!

And the “Hog” was a hundred times more complex. She sat on a Freightliner chassis, which made half of her systems the responsibility of a local Freightliner repair facility and the other half a dealer that had a bunch of technicians that kept lying to us about fixing things. Everytime we brought her in with more writeups, they would work on some things but never the really hard things. Until we finally sued them. This forced the manufacturer to force them to fix the septic and leaks. The dealership kept fixing her over and over again. Mostly ignoring us but still pretending to try. They had been so good with our Leprechaun. We were completely baffled and constantly angry about it.

The first year’s warranty was getting ready to be over, and we still hadn’t gotten her completely fixed. So we sued them. The Hog cost a hell of a lot of money, and she was supposed to be our permanent home for several years after Dan retired. But his retirement was put on hold while we went through the 3 year agony.

Dan is my husband. He had suffered over 25 years of post-traumatic stress, brought on by witnessing the death of a friend in the military. In camping with our Leprechaun, for the first time in his life he had found what made him smile and forget his pain. Camping was a complete release of the stress he felt.

We spent our first summer in 2006, camping every chance we got. Alaska had become our home, after running away from a city full of layoffs and a house that we could not sell in Tulsa.

Alaska summers are horribly short, so we camped even when it was pretty cold out (in the 20’s). Dan was talking about retirement, so we started looking at large Class A motorhomes. None of them looked good to us. (except the ones we kept seeing on HGTV’s RV shows that cost $300,000.00 and up. We weren’t going to spend anywhere near that. The dealer where we had bought the Leprechaun had 2 Class A motorhomes that looked really great. We chose one of them.

From the day we did the walkaround in June of 2007, that dealership made our lives a living hell. They are now out of business (no surprise there), but they had just hired a new service manager around the same time that we bought the big rig. And he was not only a liar through the whole court case, but he was a moron during the time we tried to get our RV fixed. The service manager before him was an amazing guy who never let anything slip through the cracks. This new service manager let everything slip. If it weren’t for just a few good people he had, they probably would’ve blown up our motorhome.

Alaska was fast becoming a place where crooked salesmen sold autos and RVs for way more than they were worth, especially to military people and retired military (like myself). And then they failed to support them properly. And the two that went out of business in 2007 and 2008 blamed it on the economy. Yeah, right. That’s why there are some that are still doing well there?

It is a good thing that two of those crooked RV businesses are now out of business. If you’re ever in the market for renting an RV from a dealership here, the best one is Alaskan Travel Holidays, by the way. I would never go anywhere else to buy an RV or rent one.

So, after we filed a lemon law lawsuit, we found out someone in the dealership had taken our RV out joyriding when they were supposed to be fixing it and put an extra 1,000 miles on it and an extra 100 hours on the generator. We were livid. And none of them would fess up.

They tried to say we abandoned it because after we sent a letter to the manufacturer for our money back, we went and took our personal items out of the RV. The only reason we did it was to make sure we didn’t lose any of our things if the dealer decided to be jerk offs and have it impounded. They didn’t, but when we got it back the following spring it was a total wreck. Though I filmed it all and talked about it in court, their witnesses lied and their lawyer lied about us and won.

It was a blow on that first day, but I started to realize that at least now because of testimony, documentation, and video-taped depositions, we actually knew what was fixed and what wasn’t. Before this, we often would be told that things were fixed. And then they wouldn’t be when we took our next trip in it. In 2 summers, we only got to use it 6 times. The previous summer in our Leprechaun, we went on more than 20 trips and made over 150 short documentary films. We made about 3 films after we bought the Hog.

So, after the sting of losing, I realized that at least now I knew where we stood. Yes, we had purchased an extended warranty from Coachmen for $2,700 and gotten nothing in return. So had a lot of other people who had bought extended warranties just before Coachmen sold their RV division to Forest River. So many companies do crap like that.

So, after we heard we lost, we were a little bit stranded when it came to fixing the major things. But, we did some research, found a better mechanic and signed up for the Good Sam extended RV warranty. One of the best in the business. It’s great because you can choose from several deductible amounts. The higher the deductible, the less you pay each month.

Though we had loved the few times we had camped in it, we were always afraid of what would break next. Now, at least we’re not afraid anymore. It also encouraged me to start really investigating what it was we really had here. It was just about that time we got some very devastating health news about my husband Dan. He already had diabetes, but now we were told he had cirrhosis of the liver (we don’t drink at all) and an enlarged heart.

We were planning on selling our home and moving to the Lower 48 anyway, but now we started talking  a lot about fulltiming. We read a book from Good Sam about it, and we started reading all the discussion boards at Good Sam’s website about fulltiming. So fascinating!

Dan and I are both travelers. In the time we have been together for 13 years, we have moved about 8 times. (or more!) We just get the itch and cannot stay in one place.

That was the thing about that lawsuit. We must have been preparing, in the back of our minds, to lose just in case. And like most human beings who have been through tough times before, we decided to take what I call “The High Road.” Instead of sitting around and whining about how they lied on the stand and we told the truth blah blah blah…Dan and I began to put our lives back together and fast!

The court case and its preparation had literally nearly drove us both insane. So the feeling of relief was a bit strange right after it was over. But we also felt like:

“You know what? We’re not going to let anyone beat us down. ”

Though I knew that what the other side’s attorney said about me during his closing arguments just wasn’t true, it didn’t matter because I knew – deep down – I had told the truth to the best of my ability and was just trying to protect an investment my family had made. Dan had to put off his retirement for 2 years because of their inability to find their butts with both hands (in my humble opinion..LOL) I had fixed electronic systems on several types of aircraft during my military career, and here was a ragtag lawyer with scuffed shoes and an angry demeanor trying to make me look dumb. Not gonna happen.

After it was over, quite a bit of strange relief feelings showed up. And we found out our RV was actually worth more than we thought it was. And that was a pretty good thing.

So, I began looking at it with a microscope. Every system. Every component. Learning everything about it. I fixed up several houses we have owned, so why not learn as much as I could about our next home?

Dan’s illness and my desire to help him see every state in the U.S. during his lifetime made our decision about fulltiming for us. It was exciting to think about!

In the next chapter, I will go through the systems that I investigated as I went through every inch of the Hog. Maybe it will help you in some way with your own RV. Or maybe you have never had an RV and are thinking about buying one. Perhaps it could help you in that way.

See you next time!

Lynne

So, we stepped over him (the defense’s lawyer) and moved on.

For 2 long years, we had to keep the RV in the crappy, filthy condition the dealership had given it to us in. (to preserve evidence, in case someone needed to look at it) It felt so good to finally be able to wash it. Wow. It looked so different.

UPDATE: Someone asked me recently on the IRV2 forums why we lost the court case. Here’s my answer (might help you someday)

We lost because of some several reasons.
(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).
He tried to make it seem like our witnesses that used to work for the dealer and had overheard all the remarks about us and 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 – he made them look like disgruntled employees because they had been laid off. (though everyone had eventually been laid off anyway). 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.

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).

The power converter is now broken but because it is a new writeup is covered under our Goodsam warranty. The jacks are still a question mark because our rig is on a Freightliner chassis so they are part of Freightliner’s responsibility. We found them to be erratic, but the dealer kept saying they worked fine. The check engine light is still an issue, but the Freightliner people said it is probably just a bad sensor for the coolant.

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.

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.

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….

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