681.1096 Pilot RV Mediation and Arbitration Program; creation and
(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 department.
(3) In order to be deemed qualified by the department, the
mediation and arbitration program must, at a minimum, meet the following
(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, or 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 making decisions.
(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 this
(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.
681.1097 RV Pilot Mediation and Arbitration
Program; dispute eligibility and program function.
(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
(b) The department shall reject any application it determines
to be fraudulent or outside the scope of this chapter.
(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
(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 manufacturer.
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 administrator.
6. Name of the mediator and/or arbitrator, if any.
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
(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 agreement.
(f) The arbitrator shall grant relief if a reasonable number of
attempts have been undertaken to correct a nonconformity or
(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 justifiable 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.