Lemon Law arbitration hearings are much less complicated than court trials or administrative hearings—there are no formal rules of evidence or court procedures and the hearings are designed to be as easy as possible for participants. You will be given the opportunity to explain your claims against each manufacturer and present documents, affidavits or witnesses and other evidence to prove the claims. Each manufacturers will each have an opportunity to present its side of the dispute. The manufacturers and the arbitrator may ask you questions or request more detail. There will be an opportunity for you to ask questions about the manufacturers’ positions, affidavits or witnesses and evidence. The final section of the hearing will be about financial issues and a possible replacement vehicle.
The Lemon Law Administration has prepared a video explaining the arbitration process. “The Lemon Law: A Guide to Arbitration” is available for viewing in sections on the Lemon Law web pages. A copy will be sent to you when your Request for Arbitration has been forwarded to the Arbitration Board. You can also contact the Lemon Law Administration for a copy.
Who Will Attend the Arbitration Hearing?
Hearings usually will be attended by you, manufacturers’ representatives, witnesses and the arbitrator. Arbitrators are like judges in that they listen to each side and then issue a written decision after the hearing. In unusual instances, an impartial automotive expert technician will be assigned to assist the arbitrator. The expert’s function is not to provide testimony for either side in the dispute. You must provide technical testimony from qualified independent mechanics and other experts when it is necessary to prove your claims.
What You Must Prove at the Arbitration Hearing
Your claims may be based on one or more defects and cover more than one claim category for each manufacturer e.g. a serious safety defect may have been subject to 2 unsuccessful attempts to diagnose or repair and a second serious safety defect occurred within 12 months. Presenting problems in the excluded living space or that clearly do not meet the definitions of a nonconformity or serious safety defect will not help your case, will take up time and may confuse the important issues. An arbitrator will be lenient but will not allow either party to pursue issues that are not relevant to the Lemon Law and the claim.
Plan your presentation to show how your motor home meets all the requirements and definitions for the type of defect and claim category related to each manufacturer’s warranty. You should include your response to the issues identified in the manufacturers’ statements. It is likely that you already know the manufacturers’ issues from trying to resolve the situation e.g. money issues; disagreement on the number of repair attempts, etc. If additional points of dispute have been mentioned or discussed in other conversations or correspondence with manufacturer representatives, you should be prepared to address those also.
The critical points to prove to an arbitrator are:
The vehicle meets the definition of a ‘new motor vehicle’
You meet the definition of a ‘consumer’
Your Request for Arbitration was received by the Lemon Law Administration (at the Seattle office or the Spokane AGO Consumer Protection Division) within 30 months of the original retail delivery date
You sent a written request to the manufacturer asking for repurchase or replacement of the vehicle
Each defect meets the definition of a ‘nonconformity’ or ‘serious safety defect’
The defect has been subject to a “reasonable number of attempts to diagnose or repair” based on the type of defect and the claim category (see Types of Defects Covered Under the Lemon Law)
The defect still exists (except for claims based on “multiple serious safety defects within 12 months” or “days out-of-service”)
Mileage on the vehicle at the first attempt to diagnose/repair each defect or 15th ‘day out-of-service’
Defenses made by the manufacturer are incorrect or do not apply to the defect
The financial items necessary to calculate an award if that is the arbitrator’s decision.
Defects And The Eligibility Period (previously known as the warranty period)?
For a defect to be covered under the Lemon Law it must have had at least one attempt to diagnose or repair under the manufacturer’s warranty andduring the Lemon Law’s “eligibility period.”
The Lemon Law “eligibility period” is not a set time frame. It is often shorter than the manufacturer’s warranty coverage (a manufacturer warranty must cover at least 12 months or 12,000 miles). The “eligibility period” is determined by a mileage limit and a time limit. An ‘attempt to diagnose or repair’ a defect occurred during the “eligibility period” if it was diagnosed or repaired:
Within 2 years from the original retail delivery date and
Before the vehicle reached 24,000 miles of operation.
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