Channel 2 investigation finds loophole in Georgia's lemon law

ATLANTA — Channel 2 Consumer Investigator Jim Strickland learned that people who prove they have cars that are lemons can be sued by the manufacturer.

Patrick Morse, of Cumming, was excited to move from a Buick to a Cadillac. But it wasn’t long before the trouble started.

“I bought the car on a Friday, and it was seen in the dealership Monday when it would not start,” Morse told Strickland. “It’s averaging at least one visit per month to the dealership since I’ve owned it.”

The service history shows plenty of work on the tail lights, along with repairs to the sunroof and the windshield, a new battery and repairs for a surging transmission.

The Georgia lemon law is supposed to protect people like Morse. He brought his case to the lemon law arbitration board.

“I represented myself through arbitration. And they brought in their attorneys and their reps and their experts and I still prevailed,” Morse said.

That was in 2014. But the lemon still sits in his driveway.

Strickland asked Morse, “Why don’t you have another car?”

Morse replied, “That’s a very good question.”

But General Motors will not answer it, or any of Strickland’s questions.

In a rare legal maneuver, the company is taking Morse to court, in an appeal of his lemon law victory.

According to the Georgia Department of Law, consumers typically win lemon law arbitration cases.

In the past three years, 66 percent of consumers have either won outright or reached an agreement with the company in which they either get a replacement car or a refund.

But either side can appeal the case to court. And records show that since 2014, General Motors appealed more than any other manufacturer.

So now, Morse has to spend more money to hire an attorney for the upcoming court case.

Alex Simanovsky is a lemon law expert.

“I've handled thousands of these cases over 20 years, and I've only seen it happen a handful of times,” Simanovsky told Strickland.

“I'm not sure why they're picking this fight. I suspect they don't like the fact that Mr. Morse got such a good deal on this vehicle.”

The sticker was more than $47,000. But Morse only paid $28,000.

The Cadillac was a 3-year-old dealer demo, but legally a new car.

“He paid below sticker for it, and they don't want him to replace his vehicle, his Cadillac, with a comparable Cadillac.”

Because consumers can also appeal when they lose, Simanovsky won't call the law unfair, just slow.

And in this case, it could get slower.

“My concern for Mr. Morse is if we win in Forsyth County, they may appeal to the court of appeals and it may go on.”

Morse's warranty just expired. Now the money for any additional repairs will be coming out of his pocket. But he says he won’t give up.

“I keep my word in all my dealings. I do the honorable thing. I’m going to drive the car until I have my day in court and justice prevails.”