Try 1 month for 99¢
Vince Megna

Attorney Vince Megna is known as the "lemon law king."

It’s hard to keep a good lawyer — or a predatory one, depending on who you talk to — down.

Just weeks after GOP lawmakers introduced a bill to gut the state’s lemon law, Vince Megna was handed a check for $260,000 to cover attorney fees and costs in the very case that inspired the legislation, bringing the total damages paid in the case to $880,000 — the largest lemon law payment in the nation's history, he says.

Megna declined to say how much he pocketed in total of the $880,000.

But in characteristic fashion, the wildly successful lemon law attorney from Milwaukee celebrated with a video. In it Megna says the Mercedes-Benz lawsuit started in 2005 when his client sought $56,000 for a bum Mercedes E-Class, and ended this year with $880,000 in court-ordered payments, making the car “the most expensive E-Class ever made.”

Pointing to the case — which was then up to $618,000 — state Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon, and Rep. Bill Kramer, R-Waukesha, introduced legislation that would have watered down the state's pro-consumer lemon law to the point that Megna said he would file all new claims in federal court. But the lawmakers eventually amended the bill to a form that Megna can live with.

"I think we have a lemon law that can be used, whereas a month ago we didn't," Megna told the Associated Press.

As Madison as it gets: Get Cap Times' highlights sent daily to your inbox

In the lead-up to the bill's introduction, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, a key backer, issued a memo saying the proposal would “protect consumers from predatory ‘lemon lawyers’ who make their living exploiting the state’s lucrative double damages requirement.” The group mentioned Megna by name.

The amended bill would remove a provision in the existing law that allows a plaintiff double damages if a vehicle manufacturer doesn’t provide a comparable vehicle or a refund for a “lemon” within 30 days.

Megna inspired another law in 2011 after a Burlington car dealership was ordered to pay more than $150,000 in legal fees after refusing to settle a case for $22,500. That law capped attorney fees in consumer protection cases to no more than three times the actual damage.

Sign up to receive free subscriptions to our email newsletters

Never miss anything! Stay updated with our latest news, commentary and other features via e-mail.

Your information will not be shared with third parties.

Please see our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service for more information.

I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site consitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.