Is Arbitration Just Another Stall?

A jury in Tallahassee, Florida just unanimously awarded plaintiff Shamair Coward a complete refund from GM for her 2007 Saturn Ion. When the vehicle was traveling at speeds of approximately 30 miles per hour, the engine would drag, lose power, the RPM's would go up and the front made a rattling sound. Ms. Coward was forced to put the vehicle into fourth gear to prevent the vehicle from losing power and to lower the RPM's.

Ms. Coward satisfied the needs of the lemon law by returning the vehicle to the dealership on 3 different occasions for repair, as well as presenting her case in Florida’s mandatory arbitration program for resolution. It was good she didn’t stop with the arbitration, however; in that venue, she lost the case.

“Some states require that arbitration be pursued prior to litigation,” said leading California lemon law attorney Norman Taylor. “If state law does not require arbitration, I always recommend it be avoided.”

Taylor’s reasons for this advice are quite sound. “Manufacturers love any kind of arbitration,” he continued. “Informal dispute resolution takes time, and any delay favors the manufacturer, who is not the one driving the defective vehicle. Consumers are frequently unfamiliar with the law and with the arbitration process, which can lead to awards in favor of the manufacturer even where the facts are relatively clear. It probably doesn’t help that the manufacturers themselves fund almost all of these so-called independent dispute resolution processes.”

In his many years as a consumer activist and lemon law attorney, Taylor has had much occasion to observe the arbitration process. He has been a lemon law specialist since 1987, and he and his firm, Norman Taylor and Associates, have handled over 8,000 cases for consumers with a 98 percent success rate.

Arbitration is rarely helpful, even if the consumer wins. For example, the arbitrator may issue an eloquently worded opinion finding that a defect exists, but that “in all fairness” it looks as if it could be repaired. Instead of awarding the refund or replacement required by law, the consumer is “awarded” just another repair attempt.

For the consumer’s sake, a qualified lemon law attorney should be contacted right away when a lemon is suspected. Careful and expert legal guidance can help them avoid many of the delaying tactics and pitfalls thrown before them in pursuing their rights under the lemon law.

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