High-Profile Lemon Law Attorney Sues Tesla

A lemon law suit has been filed in Wisconsin over a Tesla Model S that has been out of commission 66 days and displaying a host of bugs, according to the filing.

The suit contends issues with the car – as shown in a video posted April 7, 2014 – have included dashboard failures, paint defects, power door handles that wouldn’t open, and the car has also failed to turn on.

Arguing the case for the $94,770 car purchased by a man named Robert Montgomery is none other that Milwaukee attorney, Vince Megna, the “King of Lemon Laws.”

Megna has made a career of getting restitution in hundreds of cases based on state law mandating automakers buy back cars that have been out of service 30 days or more.

In this sarcastic video, he even recruits a life-sized cardboard cutout of George Clooney, parroting Clooney’s self description as a “cat” who got Tesla’s Roadster early on, then returned it.

One of Megna’s observations regarding Tesla’s preferred method of bypassing an independent franchised dealer network, is the car had to be towed to Chicago and Tesla has allegedly been unresponsive and given the consumer a hard way to go.

Early adopters of the Model S have more often praised the car’s service “experience,” as Tesla promotes it. There have however been other reports of bugs and outright component failures in Model S cars.

More often, these, including a drive unit replaced twice in a car bought by Edmunds.com, have been expeditiously fixed at Tesla’s cost.

Furthermore, Tesla’s Model S has otherwise topped Consumer Reports’ owner satisfaction survey, but this is a car with many fans who have actively promoted it. For now, Tesla only has 20-some thousand units on American roads, but concerns are how things could go if Tesla were to be selling a half million cars annually some day not long from now.

The notion that an electric car needs less maintenance and implicitly needs less service, as written by Elon Musk, is only theoretically true.

“There are no oil, spark plug or fuel filter changes, no tune-ups and no smog checks needed for an electric car,” he said last month in a blog post. “Also, all Tesla Model S vehicles are capable of over-the-air updates to upgrade the software, just like your phone or computer, so no visit to the service center is required for that either.”

All this is correct, but the Model S is not a golf cart with little more than a battery, motor and wheels. It is a highly engineered and complex system, with many servo motors, computers, lines of code, HVAC, and braking systems, infotainment, and, well, everything any gas-powered car has except the powertrain components.

Standard maintenance may be less, but there are plenty of things that need to stay working, not least of which being the battery system.

And while the “experience” is usually reported as stellar, Tesla covers itself exceptionally. Its sales contract puts strict limits on consumer recourse, and requires binding arbitration. Its contract also states that California law applies to the transaction and thus forbids class-action lawsuits.

Megna said Tesla did not reply to three requests to replace the car under Wisconsin lemon law.

The YouTube video – done for dramatic effect and so far with triple the thumbs down votes to thumbs up – tells what happened next.