Hearings Before the Florida New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board
The Florida New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board is established within the Department of Legal Affairs (Office of the Attorney General) to resolve warranty disputes between consumers and new motor vehicle manufacturers under Florida's "Lemon Law."
Members of the Arbitration Board are appointed by the Attorney General, and lawyers from the Attorney General’s Office serve as legal advisors to the Board. The Attorney General’s Office does NOT represent either party to an arbitration hearing. The Arbitration Board conducts hearings on week days during normal business hours in various locations of the state, and is administered by the Attorney General’s offices in Tallahassee, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale. Hearings are held in locations that are as convenient as possible for the consumer. All hearings are open to the public and are conducted in English.
To request arbitration by the New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board, a consumer must complete and file a “Request for Arbitration” form with the Office of the Attorney General. DO NOT DELAY! You must file with the Office of the Attorney General within 60 days after the expiration of your Lemon Law rights period (24 months after the date of delivery of your vehicle), or 30 days after the final action of a manufacturer-sponsored, state-certified program, whichever date is later. Call the Lemon Law Hotline 1-800-321-5366 (850-414-3500 out-of-state or in Tallahassee) or click here to get a Request for Arbitration form.
Once a Request for Arbitration form is filed with the Office of the Attorney General, it will be screened to determine eligibility for a hearing. If the form is incomplete or if more information is required, the consumer will be requested to produce additional information within a specified time. Failure to provide the requested information in the time specified may result in rejection of the claim. If the claim is found to be fraudulent or outside the scope of the Arbitration Board’s authority, it will be rejected, with notice of the rejection sent to the consumer and to the manufacturer. If the claim is determined to be eligible for a hearing, it will be approved and assigned to the appropriate regional office for scheduling of a hearing. The consumer and the manufacturer will receive notice of the approval of the claim, along with further information about the arbitration process and procedures.
Arbitration hearings are informal and the technical rules of evidence, such as are used in a courtroom, do not apply. Representation by an attorney is not required; however, persons appearing before the Board may be represented by attorneys, at their own expense. Some manufacturers do have attorneys, and some do not. Consumers are encouraged to observe a hearing before attending their own to familiarize themselves with the process. (To find out whether hearings are being conducted in your area, you can call the Office of the Attorney General at 850-414-3500.)
Hearings are conducted by panels of three Board members. One Board member will serve as chairperson and another may be a person with knowledge of motor vehicle mechanics. The consumer and motor vehicle manufacturer will each be afforded a fair opportunity to present their side of the dispute by presenting testimony and supporting documents. Testimony is taken under oath, and each party has the right to ask questions of the persons who testify for the opposing party (this is called cross examination). The Arbitration Board, at its sole discretion, may inspect or test drive the motor vehicle during the hearing. Generally, the hearing is conducted in two parts, the first to determine whether the motor vehicle is a “lemon” under the law. If the motor vehicle is found to be a lemon, the second part of the hearing will determine whether the consumer receives a refund or a replacement vehicle and to calculate the amounts to be paid by the manufacturer. If the motor vehicle is not found to be a lemon, the claim will be dismissed.
Generally, the Arbitration panel will announce its decision verbally at the close of the hearing. A written decision will be sent to the consumer and manufacturer by the Attorney General’s office. The decision is final unless it is appealed by either party to the Circuit Court. A petition to appeal the arbitration decision must be filed with the appropriate court within 30 days after receipt of the written decision. Appeals of decisions of the Arbitration Board are by trial de novo. Persons wishing to appeal an arbitration decision to the court should seek the advice of a private attorney. The Attorney General’s office cannot provide legal representation.
If the decision awards a refund or replacement to the consumer, and it is not appealed, the manufacturer must comply with the decision within 40 days after its receipt of the written decision. The Office of the Attorney General has the authority to enforce compliance with decisions of the Arbitration Board.