2004 Florida Statutes
Florida New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board; creation and function.
(1) There is established within the Department of Legal Affairs, the Florida New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board, consisting of members appointed by the Attorney General for an initial term of 1 year. Board members may be reappointed for additional terms of 2 years. Each board member is accountable to the Attorney General for the performance of the member's duties and is exempt from civil liability for any act or omission which occurs while acting in the member's official capacity. The Department of Legal Affairs shall defend a member in any action against the member or the board which arises from any such act or omission. The Attorney General may establish as many regions of the board as necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter.
(2) The boards shall hear cases in various locations throughout the state so any consumer whose dispute is approved for arbitration by the division may attend an arbitration hearing at a reasonably convenient location and present a dispute orally. Hearings shall be conducted by panels of three board members assigned by the department. A majority vote of the three-member board panel shall be required to render a decision. Arbitration proceedings under this section shall be open to the public on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms.
(3) Each region of the board shall consist of up to eight members. The members of the board shall construe and apply the provisions of this chapter, and rules adopted thereunder, in making their decisions. An administrator and a secretary shall be assigned to each board by the Department of Legal Affairs. At least one member of each board must be a person with expertise in motor vehicle mechanics. A member must not be employed by a manufacturer or a franchised motor vehicle dealer or be a staff member, a decisionmaker, or a consultant for a procedure. Board members shall be trained in the application of this chapter and any rules adopted under this chapter, shall be reimbursed for travel expenses pursuant to s. 112.061, and shall be compensated at a rate or wage prescribed by the Attorney General.
(4) Before filing a civil action on a matter subject to s. 681.104, the consumer must first submit the dispute to the division, and to the board if such dispute is deemed eligible for arbitration.
(5) Manufacturers shall submit to arbitration conducted by the board if such arbitration is requested by a consumer and the dispute is deemed eligible for arbitration by the division pursuant to s. 681.109
(6) The board shall hear the dispute within 40 days and render a decision within 60 days after the date the request for arbitration is approved. The board may continue the hearing on its own motion or upon the request of a party for good cause shown. A request for continuance by the consumer constitutes waiver of the time periods set forth in this subsection. The Department of Legal Affairs, at the board's request, may investigate disputes, and may issue subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and for the production of records, documents, and other evidence before the board. The failure of the board to hear a dispute or render a decision within the prescribed periods does not invalidate the decision.
(7) At all arbitration proceedings, the parties may present oral and written testimony, present witnesses and evidence relevant to the dispute, cross-examine witnesses, and be represented by counsel. The board may administer oaths or affirmations to witnesses and inspect the vehicle if requested by a party or if the board deems such inspection appropriate.
(8) The board shall grant relief, if a reasonable number of attempts have been undertaken to correct a nonconformity or nonconformities.
(9) The decision of the board shall be sent by registered mail to the consumer and the manufacturer, and shall contain written findings of fact and rationale for the decision. If the decision is in favor of the consumer, the manufacturer must, within 40 days after receipt of the decision, comply with the terms of the decision. Compliance occurs on the date the consumer receives delivery of an acceptable replacement motor vehicle or the refund specified in the arbitration award. In any civil action arising under this chapter and relating to a dispute arbitrated before the board, any decision by the board is admissible in evidence.
(10) A decision is final unless appealed by either party. A petition to the circuit court to appeal a decision must be made within 30 days after receipt of the decision. The petition shall be filed in the county where the consumer resides, or where the motor vehicle was acquired, or where the arbitration hearing was conducted. Within 7 days after the petition has been filed, the appealing party must send a copy of the petition to the department. If the department does not receive notice of such petition within 40 days after the manufacturer's receipt of a decision in favor of the consumer, and the manufacturer has neither complied with, nor has petitioned to appeal such decision, the department may apply to the circuit court to seek imposition of a fine up to $1,000 per day against the manufacturer until the amount stands at twice the purchase price of the motor vehicle, unless the manufacturer provides clear and convincing evidence that the delay or failure was beyond its control or was acceptable to the consumer as evidenced by a written statement signed by the consumer. If the manufacturer fails to provide such evidence or fails to pay the fine, the department shall initiate proceedings against the manufacturer for failure to pay such fine. The proceeds from the fine herein imposed shall be placed in the Motor Vehicle Warranty Trust Fund in the department for implementation and enforcement of this chapter. If the manufacturer fails to comply with the provisions of this subsection, the court shall affirm the award upon application by the consumer.
(11) All provisions in this section and s. 681.109 pertaining to compulsory arbitration before the board, the dispute eligibility screening by the division, the proceedings and decisions of the board, and any appeals thereof, are exempt from the provisions of chapter 120.
(12) An appeal of a decision by the board to the circuit court by a consumer or a manufacturer shall be by trial de novo. In a written petition to appeal a decision by the board, the appealing party must state the action requested and the grounds relied upon for appeal. Within 30 days of final disposition of the appeal, the appealing party shall furnish the department with notice of such disposition and, upon request, shall furnish the department with a copy of the order or judgment of the court.
(13) If a decision of the board in favor of the consumer is upheld by the court, recovery by the consumer shall include the pecuniary value of the award, attorney's fees incurred in obtaining confirmation of the award, and all costs and continuing damages in the amount of $25 per day for each day beyond the 40-day period following the manufacturer's receipt of the board's decision. If a court determines that the manufacturer acted in bad faith in bringing the appeal or brought the appeal solely for the purpose of harassment or in complete absence of a justiciable issue of law or fact, the court shall double, and may triple, the amount of the total award.
(14) When a judgment affirms a decision by the board in favor of a consumer, appellate review may be conditioned upon payment by the manufacturer of the consumer's attorney's fees and giving security for costs and expenses resulting from the review period.
(15) The department shall maintain records of each dispute submitted to the board, and the program, including an index of motor vehicles by year, make, and model, and shall compile aggregate annual statistics for all disputes submitted to, and decided by, the board, as well as annual statistics for each manufacturer that include, but are not limited to, the value, if applicable, and the number and percent of:
(a) Replacement motor vehicle requests;
(b) Purchase price refund requests;
(c) Replacement motor vehicles obtained in prehearing settlements;
(d) Purchase price refunds obtained in prehearing settlements;
(e) Replacement motor vehicles awarded in arbitration;
(f) Purchase price refunds awarded in arbitration;
(g) Board decisions neither complied with in 40 days nor petitioned for appeal within 30 days;
(h) Board decisions appealed;
(i) Appeals affirmed by the court; and
(j) Appeals found by the court to be brought in bad faith or solely for the purpose of harassment.
The statistics compiled under this subsection are public information.
(16) When requested by the department, a manufacturer must verify the settlement terms for disputes that are approved for arbitration but are not decided by the board.
History.--ss. 7, 19, ch. 88-95; s. 18, ch. 91-110; s. 4, ch. 91-429; s. 7, ch. 92-88; s. 55, ch. 95-211; s. 6, ch. 97-245.