If I bought a lemon from a car lot and I write on the side of my car not to buy from this lot becauseI wasa LEMON, could the owner sue me for liable?

Asked on September 16, 2011 under General Practice, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

It depends:

1) if your state has a "lemon law," then whether or not a car is a lemon is an actual factual assertion, like saying that it is a coup vs. a sedan, or light truck vs. car; that is, if there is a statutory definition of what a lemon is in your state, it's no longer a matter of opinion, but rather of whether there has been a determination as to the car's status.

1a) this is significant because if something is an opinion, it's not defamation, no matter how negative; so if you wrote "don't buy from Joe's Car-o-Rama because his car's SUCK!" that's  an opinion (there is no definition of "suck") and so non-actionable

2) Defamation is the public making--so writing on the side of a car driven in public would qualify--of an untrue factual statement which harms a person's or business's reputation. Certainly, calling a car dealer's car a lemon could harm their repuation. So then the issue, if there is a lemon law in your state and so a statutory definition of lemon, is whether or not the car meets that definition. If it does not meet that definition, you have committed defamation; and even if you feel that it has met the definition, if the dealership or manufacture has not taken the car back as a lemon, or there has not been a court determination that it's a lemon, the matter is at least subject to debate and you could potentially wind up in litigation.

Short answer: express your opinion without using the word "lemon" or any word that may have a specific factual meaning; restrict yourself to things that are obviously opinions if you feel you must express yourself (it's better to not; the best thing to do would be to take whatever legal action is appropriate to receive the compensation you are legally due--such as an action under a lemon law).


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