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Mercedes Slammed with Lemon Lawsuit

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Madison, WIA judge has ordered Mercedes to $482,000 in damages and legal fees to a customer who was sold a defective car in 2005 for $56,000 and not given a refund on time. The customer's lawyer says this judgment could be the largest involving a single car under the "lemon law", which protects consumers who buy defective (also known as "lemon") vehicles.

Marco Marquez purchased the Mercedes-Benz E 320 for $56,000 from a Milwaukee dealership in 2005 but it had problems from the beginning. Often the car wouldn't start: the battery was replaced a number of times and after several repair attempts, the dealership said the problem could not be fixed.

In October 2005, Marquez hired a lawyer who sent Mercedes a refund demand. The company wanted Marquez to take a replacement, but he refused, asking again for a refund. The company agreed to provide a refund in 30 days but on the 31st day, Marquez's lawyer filed the lawsuit demanding double damages and legal fees. Although Mercedes acknowledged that the car was defective, it also accused Marquez of acting in bad faith because he didn't provide sufficient information about his auto loan.

Marquez said that Mercedes had the information but it was stalling; in 2007 a judge agreed with Marquez and awarded him over $200,000 in damages and legal fees. But an appeals court overturned the decision one year later, saying a jury should decide whether Marquez intentionally prevented the company from giving the refund on time.

Last year the jury agreed that Marquez did indeed act in bad faith, but Waukesha County Circuit Judge Michael Bohren overturned the verdict and ruled in Marquez's favor, citing a clear "lack of urgency" by Mercedes-Benz to refund his money.

A Mercedes-Benz spokeswoman says the company is disappointed in the ruling.

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