'Lemon-law' lawyer declares victory against Tesla

A Milwaukee attorney says he's won a settlement in his lemon-law suit against Tesla Motors on behalf of a Wisconsin owner who had big problems with his Model S.

Attorney Vince Megna, the self-declared "lemon-law king," said Monday that the electric carmaker agreed to buy the car back for $126,836, including accessories and extras and $18,500 in attorney fees. "We got back every penny we asked for," he says.

Megna believes it was the first settlement of a lemon-law claim against the California automaker.

Tesla Model S
Gianluca Colla | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Tesla Model S

The Tesla case was unusual not only because it involved a luxury electric car, but also because the automaker in its blog blasted the owner personally for having filed a lemon-law case.

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Tesla did not do so on Monday, however. Reached for comment, Tesla spokeswoman Liz Jarvis-Shean said, "We consider this case to be closed."

Megna filed the suit on a behalf of physician Robert Montgomery, who says the Model S was out of service for a total of 66 days shortly after he bought it in March of 2013.

He racked up a litany of complaints, including that the car didn't turn on, the transmission wouldn't shift into drive, the door handles didn't always work and the battery cooling system did not work, to name a few. Montgomery declined an interview request.

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Since Tesla didn't have repair facilities near Montgomery in Wisconsin, the car had to be transported to Chicago each time it needed major repairs.

When the case was filed, Tesla at first declined to comment. But then it mounted a defense in its blog, hinting that the owner may have tampered with his car, producing some of the defects.

It said the Tesla service team "did everything reasonably possible" to help Montgomery, especially when it came to a fuse that blew three times. Each time, Tesla engineers were unable to find a problem.

"When the fuse kept blowing despite the new parts, and faced with no diagnosis showing anything wrong with the car, the engineers were moved to consider the possibility that the fuse had been tampered with," Tesla says. "After investigating, they determined that the car's front trunk had been opened immediately before the fuse failure on each of the three occasions. (The fuse is accessed through the front trunk.) Ultimately, Tesla service applied non-tamper tape to the fuse switch. From that point on, the fuse performed flawlessly."

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Megna strongly denied there was any tampering. Megna also says he was savaged online by what he calls Tesla's "fan boys," including 700 "dislikes" of a video he posted on the case and 500 comments.

But he adds: "We were not going to give up at any stage."

— By Chris Woodyard, USA Today

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