(1) Arbitrators shall have the duty to appoint a time and place of hearing at a convenient location in the state of Montana and provide reasonable notice to the manufacturer and consumer of such time and place, to conduct fair and impartial hearings, to take all necessary actions to avoid delay in the disposition of proceedings, to maintain order and to render a final decision no later than 60 days after the department has accepted a request for arbitration. The decision must comply with Title 61, chapter 4, part 5 and Title 27, chapter 5, MCA. The arbitrators shall have all powers necessary to meet these ends including, but not limited to, the following:

(a) to consider any and all evidence offered by the parties which the panel deems necessary to an understanding and determination of the dispute;

(b) to request the department to issue subpoenas to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents, papers and records relevant to the dispute;

(c) to request the department to forward a copy of all written testimony and documentary evidence to an independent technical expert certified by the national institute of automotive excellence, to consult with the technical expert as necessary and to request the technical expert to sit as a nonvoting member of the arbitration panel during presentation of oral testimony;

(d) to regulate the course of the hearings and the conduct of the parties and their counsel therein;

(e) to hold conferences for simplification of the issues or for other purposes;

(f) to schedule vehicle inspections, if deemed necessary, at such facility as the arbitrators determine;

(g) to continue the arbitration hearing to a subsequent date if a party requests a continuance before hearing, or at the initial hearing or if the panel determines that additional information is necessary in order for the panel to render a fair and accurate decision. A continuance shall be held within five days of the initial hearing;

(h) to reopen the hearing at will or upon motion of either party for good cause shown at any time before the decision is rendered; and

(i) to permit a deposition to be taken of a witness who cannot be subpoenaed or is unable to attend the hearing upon the application of a party and for use as evidence, in the manner and upon the terms designated by the arbitrators.

(2) Arbitrators shall maintain their impartiality throughout the course of the arbitration proceedings.

(3) An arbitrator shall not be assigned to an arbitration panel if he or she has any relationship to either party to the dispute to be decided by that panel.

(4) There shall be no direct communication between the parties and the arbitrators other than at the oral hearing. Any other oral or written communications between the parties and the arbitrators shall be channeled through the department for transmittal to the appropriate individual(s) . Any such prohibited contact shall be reported by the arbitrators to the department and noted in the case record.

History: 61-4-532, MCA; IMP, 61-4-515, 61-4-518, 61-4-519, MCA; NEW, 1998 MAR p. 746, Eff. 3/27/98; TRANS, from Commerce, 2001 MAR p. 1176; TRANS, from Administration, 2006 MAR p. 322, Eff. 2/10/06.