Pilot RV Mediation and Arbitration Program; creation and qualifications.
(1) This section and s. 681.1097 shall apply
to disputes determined eligible under this chapter involving recreational
vehicles acquired on or after October 1, 1997, and shall remain in effect
until September 30, 2001, at which time recreational vehicle disputes
shall be subject to the provisions of ss. 681.109 and 681.1095. The
Attorney General shall report annually to the President of the Senate, the
Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Minority Leader of each house
of the Legislature, and appropriate legislative committees regarding the
efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the pilot program.
(2) Each manufacturer of a recreational
vehicle involved in a dispute that is determined eligible under this
chapter, including chassis and component manufacturers which separately
warrant the chassis and components and which otherwise meet the definition
of manufacturer set forth in s. 681.102(14), shall participate in a
mediation and arbitration program that is deemed qualified by the
(3) In order to be deemed qualified by the
department, the mediation and arbitration program must, at a minimum, meet
the following requirements:
(a) The program must be administered by an
administrator and staff that is sufficiently insulated from the
manufacturer to ensure impartial mediation and arbitration services.
(b) Program administration fees must be paid
by the manufacturer and no such fees shall be charged to a consumer.
(c) The program must be adequately staffed at
a level sufficient to ensure the provision of fair and expeditious dispute
(d) Program mediators and arbitrators must be
sufficiently insulated from a manufacturer to ensure the provision of
impartial mediation and arbitration of disputes.
(e) Program mediators and arbitrators shall
not be employed by a manufacturer or a motor vehicle dealer.
(f) Program mediators must complete a Florida
Supreme Court certified circuit or county mediation training program, or
other mediation training program approved by the department, in addition
to a minimum of one-half day of training on this chapter conducted by the
(g) Program mediators must comply with the
Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators issued by the American
Arbitration Association, the Dispute Resolution Section of the American
Bar Association, and the Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution.
(h) Program arbitrators must complete a
Florida Supreme Court certified circuit or county arbitration program,
other arbitration training program approved by the department, in addition
to a minimum of 1 day of training in the application of this chapter and
any rules adopted thereunder conducted by the department.
(i) Program arbitrators must comply with the
Code of Ethics for Arbitrators in Commercial Disputes published by the
American Arbitration Association and the American Bar Association in 1977
and as amended.
(j) Program arbitrators must construe and
apply the provisions of this chapter and rules adopted thereunder in
(k) The program must complete all mediation
and arbitration of an eligible consumer claim within 70 days of the
program administrator's receipt of the claim from the department. Failure
of the program to complete all proceedings within the prescribed period
will not invalidate any settlement agreement or arbitration decision.
(l) Mediation conferences and arbitration
proceedings must be held at reasonably convenient locations within the
state so as to enable a consumer to attend and present a dispute orally.
(4) The department shall monitor the
program for compliance with this chapter. If the program is determined not
qualified or if qualification is revoked, then the involved manufacturer
shall be required to 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.
(5) If a program is determined not qualified
or if qualification is revoked, the involved manufacturer shall be
notified by the department of any deficiencies in the program and informed
that it is entitled to a hearing pursuant to chapter 120.
(6) The program administrator, mediators, and
arbitrators are exempt from civil liability arising from any act or
omission in connection with any mediation or arbitration conducted under
(7) The program administrator shall maintain
records of each dispute submitted to the program, including the recordings
of arbitration hearings. All records maintained by the program under this
chapter shall be public records and shall be available for inspection by
the department upon reasonable notice. The records for disputes closed as
of September 30 of each year shall be turned over to the department by the
program administrator by no later than October 30 of the same year, unless
a later date is specified by the department.
(8) The department shall have the authority
to adopt reasonable rules to carry out the provisions of this section.
History.--s. 7, ch. 97-245.
Pilot Mediation and Arbitration Program; dispute eligibility and program
(1) Before filing a civil action on a matter
subject to s. 681.104, a consumer who acquires a recreational vehicle must
first submit the dispute to the department, and to the program if the
dispute is deemed eligible. Such consumer is not required to resort to a
procedure certified pursuant to s. 681.108, notwithstanding that one of
the manufacturers of the recreational vehicle has such a procedure. Such
consumer is not required to resort to arbitration conducted by the board,
except as provided in s. 681.1096(4) and in this section.
(2) A consumer acquiring a recreational
vehicle must apply to participate in this program with respect to a claim
arising during the Lemon Law rights period by filing the application in
subsection (3) with the department no later than 60 days after the
expiration of the Lemon Law rights period.
(3) The consumer's application for
participation in the program must be on a form prescribed or approved by
the department. The department shall screen all applications to
participate in the program to determine eligibility. The department shall
forward to the program administrator all applications the department
determines are potentially entitled to relief under this chapter.
(a) If the department determines the
application lacks sufficient information from which a determination of
eligibility can be made, the department shall request additional
information from the consumer and, upon review of such additional
information, shall determine whether the application is eligible or reject
the application as incomplete.
(b) The department shall reject any
application it determines to be fraudulent or outside the scope of this
(c) The consumer and the manufacturer shall
be notified in writing by the department if an application is rejected.
Such notification of rejection shall include a brief explanation as to the
reason for the rejection.
(d) If the department rejects a dispute, the
consumer may file a lawsuit to enforce the remedies provided under this
chapter. In any civil action arising under this chapter and relating to
the matter considered by the department, any determination made to reject
a dispute is admissible in evidence.
(4) Mediation shall be mandatory for both the
consumer and manufacturer, unless the dispute is settled prior to the
scheduled mediation conference. The mediation conference shall be
confidential and inadmissible in any subsequent adversarial proceedings.
Participation shall be limited to the parties directly involved in the
dispute and their attorneys, if any. All manufacturers shall be
represented by persons with settlement authority.
(a) Upon receipt of an eligible application
from the department, the program administrator shall notify the consumer
and all involved manufacturers in writing that an eligible application has
been received. Such notification shall include a statement that a
mediation conference will be scheduled, shall identify the assigned
mediator, and provide information regarding the program's procedures. The
program administrator shall provide all involved manufacturers with a copy
of the completed application.
(b) The mediator shall be selected and
assigned by the program administrator. The parties may factually object to
a mediator based upon the mediator's past or present relationship with a
party or a party's attorney, direct or indirect, whether financial,
professional, social, or of any other kind. The program administrator
shall consider any such objection, determine its validity, and notify the
parties of any determination. If the objection is determined valid, the
program administrator shall assign another mediator to the case.
(c) At the mediation conference, the mediator
shall assist the parties' efforts to reach a mutually acceptable
settlement of their dispute; however, the mediator shall not impose any
settlement upon the parties.
(d) Upon conclusion of the mediation
conference, the mediator shall notify the program administrator that the
case has settled or remains at an impasse. The program administrator shall
notify the department in writing of the outcome of the mediation.
(e) If the mediation conference ends in an
impasse, it shall proceed to arbitration pursuant to subsection (5). The
program administrator shall immediately notify the parties in writing that
the dispute will proceed to arbitration and shall identify the assigned
(f) If the parties enter into a settlement at
any time after the dispute has been submitted to the program, such
settlement must be reduced to writing, signed by the consumer and all
involved manufacturers, and filed with the program administrator. The
program administrator shall send a copy to the department. All settlements
must contain, at a minimum, the following information:
1. Name and address of the consumer.
2. Name and address of each involved
3. Year, make, model, and vehicle
identification number of the subject recreational vehicle.
4. Name and address of the dealership from
which the recreational vehicle was acquired.
5. Date the claim was received by the program
6. Name of the mediator and/or arbitrator, if
7. Statement of the terms of the agreement,
including, but not limited to: whether the vehicle is to be reacquired by
a manufacturer and the identity of the manufacturer that will reacquire
the vehicle; the amount of any moneys to be paid by the consumer and/or a
manufacturer; the year, make, and model of any replacement motor vehicle
or motor vehicle accepted by the consumer as a trade-assist; and a time
certain for performance not to exceed 40 days from the date the settlement
agreement is signed by the parties.
(g) If a manufacturer fails to perform within
the time required in any settlement agreement, the consumer must notify
the program administrator of such failure in writing within 10 days of the
required performance date. Within 10 days of receipt of such notice, the
program administrator shall notify the department of the manufacturer's
failure in compliance and shall schedule the matter for an arbitration
hearing pursuant to subsection (5).
(5) If the mediation ends in an impasse, or
if a manufacturer fails to comply with the settlement entered into between
the parties, the program administrator shall schedule the dispute for an
arbitration hearing. Arbitration proceedings shall be open to the public
on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms.
(a) The arbitration hearing shall be
conducted by a single arbitrator assigned by the program administrator.
The arbitrator shall not be the same person as the mediator who conducted
the prior mediation conference in the dispute. The parties may factually
object to an arbitrator based on the arbitrator's past or present
relationship with a party or a party's attorney, direct or indirect,
whether financial, professional, social, or of any other kind. The program
administrator shall consider any such objection, determine its validity,
and notify the parties of any determination. If the objection is
determined valid, the program administrator shall assign another
arbitrator to the case.
(b) The arbitrator may issue subpoenas for
the attendance of witnesses and for the production of records, documents,
and other evidence. Subpoenas so issued shall be served and, upon
application to the court by a party to the arbitration, enforced in the
manner provided by law for the service and enforcement of subpoenas in
civil actions. Fees for attendance as a witness shall be the same as for a
witness in the circuit court.
(c) At all program 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 arbitrator shall record the arbitration
hearing and shall have the power to administer oaths. The arbitrator may
inspect the vehicle if requested by a party or if the arbitrator considers
such inspection appropriate.
(d) The program arbitrator may continue a
hearing on his or her own motion or upon the request of a party for good
cause shown. A request for continuance by the consumer constitutes a
waiver of the time period set forth in s. 681.1096(3)(k) for completion of
all proceedings under the program.
(e) Where the arbitration is the result of a
manufacturer's failure to perform in accordance with a mediation
agreement, any relief to the consumer granted by the arbitration will be
no less than the relief agreed to by the manufacturer in the settlement
(f) The arbitrator shall grant relief if a
reasonable number of attempts have been undertaken to correct a
nonconformity or nonconformities.
(g) The program arbitrator shall render a
decision within 10 days of the closing of the hearing. The decision shall
be in writing on a form prescribed or approved by the department. The
program administrator shall send a copy of the decision to the consumer
and each involved manufacturer by registered mail. The program
administrator shall also send a copy of the decision to the department
within 5 days of mailing to the parties.
(h) A manufacturer shall comply with an
arbitration decision within 40 days of the date the manufacturer receives
the written decision. Compliance occurs on the date the consumer receives
delivery of an acceptable replacement motor vehicle or the refund
specified in the arbitration award. If a manufacturer fails to comply
within the time required, the consumer must notify the program
administrator in writing within 10 days. The program administrator shall
notify the department of a manufacturer's failure to comply. The
department shall have the authority to enforce compliance with arbitration
decisions under this section in the same manner as is provided for
enforcement of compliance with board decisions under s. 681.1095(10). In
any civil action arising under this chapter and relating to a dispute
arbitrated pursuant to this section, the decision of the arbitrator is
admissible in evidence.
(6) Except as otherwise provided, all
provisions in this section pertaining to mandatory mediation and
arbitration, eligibility screening, mediation proceedings, arbitration
hearings and decisions, and any appeals thereof are exempt from the
provisions of chapter 120.
(7) Either party may make application to the
circuit court for the county in which one of the parties resides or has a
place of business or, if neither party resides or has a place of business
in this state, the county where the arbitration hearing was held, for an
order confirming, vacating, modifying, or correcting any award, in
accordance with the provisions of this section and ss. 682.12, 682.13,
682.14, 682.15, and 682.17. Such application must be filed within 30 days
of the moving party's receipt of the written decision or the decision
becomes final. Upon filing such application, the moving party shall mail a
copy to the department and, upon entry of any judgment or decree, shall
mail a copy of such judgment or decree to the department. A review of such
application by the circuit court shall be confined to the record of the
proceedings before the program arbitrator. The court shall conduct a de
novo review of the questions of law raised in the application. In addition
to the grounds set forth in ss. 682.13 and 682.14, the court shall
consider questions of fact raised in the application. In reviewing
questions of fact, the court shall uphold the award unless it determines
that the factual findings of the arbitrator are not supported by
substantial evidence in the record and that the substantial rights of the
moving party have been prejudiced. If the arbitrator fails to state
findings or reasons for the stated award, or the findings or reasons are
inadequate, the court shall search the record to determine whether a basis
exists to uphold the award. The court shall expedite consideration of any
application filed under this section on the calendar.
(a) If a decision of a program arbitrator in
favor of a consumer is confirmed 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 a manufacturer's receipt of the arbitrator's decision. If a
court determines 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.
(b) An appeal of a judgment or order by the
court confirming, denying confirmation, modifying or correcting, or
vacating the award may be taken in the manner and to the same extent as
from orders or judgments in a civil action.
(8) The department shall have the authority
to adopt reasonable rules to carry out the provisions of this section.
History.--s. 8, ch. 97-245.