Office of Administrative Hearings
The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) was created by HB 1692 (83rd Texas Legislature, Reg. Session) and began operations on January 1, 2014. OAH conducts hearings statewide adjudicating Lemon Law and Warranty Performance complaints filed by Texas consumers. OAH ensures that the complaints are resolved efficiently and effectively by issuing decisions and orders in a consistent and timely manner. The Hearing Examiners are based in Austin and travel throughout the state in order to conduct the hearings.
A Lemon Law or Warranty Performance complaint is initiated in the Lemon Law section of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles’ (TxDMV) Enforcement Division. The Lemon Law case advisors help the parties attempt to resolve the complaint without the need for proceeding to hearing. If a resolution cannot be reached, then the complaint is referred to OAH for a hearing.
Once a complaint has been referred to OAH, a hearing notice will be mailed to the parties. The notice will inform the parties of the date, time, and location of the scheduled hearing, as well as the legal authority under which the hearing is conducted. In addition, the notice provides information to the parties of the hearing procedures, the parties right to representation, the parties right to submit exhibits and how to submit them, along with other necessary information.
All hearings are scheduled for four hours and are conducted in or near the Complainant’s location. The hearings are informal and, as such, the parties are not required to be represented by an attorney. However, a party may have an attorney represent them. If a party decides to obtain an attorney for a hearing, they must notify the Hearing Examiner at least five business days prior to the hearing date of the identity of the attorney. In addition, the attorney must file a written notice of appearance to be the attorney of record. Parties are not entitled to have an attorney appointed for them.
Sometime prior to the scheduled hearing date, the Hearing Examiner will conduct a prehearing telephone conference with the parties. During the prehearing conference, the Hearing Examiner will address the hearing date, time, and location; the identities of representatives and witnesses; exhibits; arranging for a prehearing vehicle inspection, if necessary; and any other matters that may assist in the fair, efficient, and expeditious conduct of the hearing. No evidence regarding the underlying complaint will be taken by the Hearing Examiner during the prehearing conference, as its purpose is informational and it is not a fact finding procedure.
Law and Rules Governing Hearings
OAH has the authority to conduct hearings and issue decisions under Sections 2301.601 through 2301.613 of the Texas Occupations Code.
In addition, the hearing procedures followed by the Hearing Examiner can be found in Sections 2301.701 through 2301.713 of the Texas Occupations Code and the Texas Administrative Code, Title 43, Part 10, Chapter 215, Sections 215.21 through 215.58 and Sections 215.201 through 215.210.
Presentation of Evidence – In each hearing, the Complainant has the burden of proof to establish that the vehicle complained of has a defect that the Manufacturer or its agent has been unable to repair. Since the Complainant has the burden of proof, they present their evidence first, followed by the Manufacturer. All testimony will be taken under oath.
Witnesses – Each party may call witnesses. Witnesses first answer questions from the Hearing Examiner, then from the party who called them, and then may be cross-examined by opposing parties. In some circumstances witnesses may be required to wait outside the hearing room until they are called in to the room to testify.
Exhibits – The Hearing Examiners frequently request that a party provide documents which are entered into evidence at the hearing. The most commonly requested documents are: the vehicle sales contract or purchase order, an odometer statement for the vehicle in question, warranty documents, repair orders or receipts for repairs performed to the vehicle, correspondence with the manufacturer relating to the repairs, and written notice to the manufacturer of the alleged defect/non-comformity to the vehicle. Any party submitting a document to be used as evidence, must bring two copies of the document to the hearing: one for the Hearing Examiner and one for the opposing party. In addition, the submitting party should have a copy of the document for themselves. Some documents a party may wish to submit may be inadmissible and excluded by the Hearing Examiner. The Texas Rules of Evidence govern objections and what may be admitted as evidence. When submitting any documents, correspondence or sending e-mails, please ensure all parties are copied.
Vehicle Inspection – Oftentimes it is necessary to inspect or test drive the vehicle that is the subject matter of the complaint to determine if the alleged condition can be recreated. Therefore, it is necessary that the vehicle be present at the hearing location for the inspection or test drive to take place, unless there has been a prior ruling by the Hearing Examiner that the vehicle not be present due to a prohibitive circumstance.
Closing Statement – Each party may summarize what the evidence shows and argue why the Hearing Examiner should decide in that party’s favor. The closing statement is not evidence and should not be used as an opportunity to provide additional evidence that was not submitted earlier in the hearing.
After the hearing is completed and the hearing record closed, the Hearing Examiner will prepare a written Decision and Final Order based on all of the evidence admitted at the hearing. The Hearing Examiner is required to issue the Decision and Final Order within 60 days from the date that the hearing record is closed.
If the Hearing Examiner determines that the vehicle has a defect or noncomformity that still exists, then he can order replacement, repurchase, or repair of the vehicle in question. If the Hearing Examiner determines that the Complainant has not established that a defect still exists in the vehicle, that the vehicle has been repaired, or that the Complainant has not met all of the requirements to establish relief under the Lemon Law, then the Hearing Examiner can dismiss the complaint.
Once a Decision and Final Order is issued, either party may file a Motion for Rehearing if they disagree with it. A Motion for Rehearing must specify the findings of fact or conclusions of law which the party disagrees with and any evidentiary or legal ruling that they are claiming to be wrong. The motion must also state the legal and factual basis for the claimed error. When submitting a Motion for Rehearing, the moving party must ensure that the opposing party(ies) are served a copy of the motion.
A Motion for Rehearing must be filed with OAH not later than the 25th day after the date the Decision and Final Order is signed. The opposing party in the hearing may file a reply to a Motion for Rehearing not later than the 40th day after the date the Decision and Final Order is signed. The Chief Hearing Examiner shall act on the Motion for Rehearing not later than the 55th day after the date the Decision and Final Order is signed.
If a party’s Motion for Rehearing on a Lemon Law complaint filed under Subchapter M of Chapter 2301 of the Occupation Code is denied, then the party can file a petition for judicial review of the decision in a district court in Travis County. However, if a party’s Motion for Rehearing in a Warranty Performance case is denied, then the petition for judicial review of the decision must be filed in district court in Travis County or the court of appeals for the Third Court of Appeals. Any petition for judicial review must be filed not later than the 30th day after the date on which the decision became final and appealable.
What is the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH)?
House Bill 1692 (83rd Texas Legislature, Regular Session) established the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles’ (TxDMV) Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) effective January 1, 2014, in order to streamline the process of conducting hearings under the Texas Lemon Law. OAH is tasked with conducting fair and unbiased administrative hearings and issuing decisions in a timely manner.
What is a Hearing Examiner?
A Hearing Examiner is a neutral presiding officer who is an unbiased, independent adjudicator. The Hearing Examiner conducts the hearing, listens to the evidence and arguments of the parties, and writes a Decision and Final Order based on the evidence presented at the hearing. In addition, the Hearing Examiner is authorized to conduct conferences before and after the hearings, issue written orders, and generally control the course of the hearing. OAH’s Hearing Examiners are licensed Texas attorneys.
What is an administrative hearing?
An administrative hearing is conducted in basically the same way as a trial at a courthouse, but more informally. The parties may present documentary evidence to be entered as exhibits in the hearing. They have the right to question their own witnesses and cross-examine opposing witnesses. In addition, the parties are provided with an opportunity for a closing statement indicating why they believe that the Hearing Examiner should rule in their favor. The Hearing Examiner will rule on the admission of evidence and on objections and acts as both judge and jury.
I feel that my vehicle is a lemon, how do I file a Lemon Law complaint?
Lemon Law complaints may be filed with TxDMV’s Enforcement Division’s Lemon law section. A request for replacement or repurchase of the complained of vehicle, must be accompanied by a $35 filing fee. Additional information regarding the complaint process can be found here: http://www.txdmv.gov/motorists/consumer-protection/lemon-law
Do I need an attorney or may I represent myself?
If you are a party in an OAH hearing, you are not required to be represented by an attorney. You may represent yourself in the hearing. It is the Hearing Examiner’s responsibility to ensure that the hearing record is fully developed and that you have been given an opportunity to present all of your evidence. However, the Hearing Examiner cannot provide you with legal advice.
Can I resolve my complaint without an administrative hearing?
Even though your complaint may have been forwarded to OAH and a hearing scheduled, you are always free to attempt to settle your complaint with the manufacturer. If you do reach a settlement prior to the hearing date, please notify OAH of the settlement and request a dismissal of your complaint. The dismissal request must be in writing and mailed or e-mailed to OAH.
What if I need an interpreter?
If you need a language or sign interpreter in order to participate in your hearing, please contact OAH at least two weeks before the hearing date so an interpreter can be scheduled. OAH will arrange and pay for the interpreter.
Where will my hearing be held?
Hearings are conducted in various locations throughout the state. OAH attempts to set the hearing in a location near the Complainant’s home, but some travel to the hearing location may be required by the parties.
The main locations for our hearings are:
- TxDMV Austin Map
- Fort Worth TxDOT Complex
- Houston (Houston TxDMV Map and Houston TXDOT District Map locations)
- Mesquite TXDOT District Map
- Pharr TXDOT District Map
- San Antonio District Map
May I submit a video or audio recording as evidence for a hearing?
Video or audio recordings of the complained of problem with a vehicle may be submitted as evidence in a hearing. However, the recording must be on a USB flash drive or a CD or DVD. In addition, copies of the recording must be submitted to the opposing party at least five (5) days prior to the hearing date.
Can I obtain a transcript of my hearing?
OAH does not provide written transcripts of the hearing recording. However, you can obtain a CD with the recording on it at no charge. Request For Audio Recording
Can I request a Motion for Continuance?
A party may request a continuance of a hearing prior to the hearing date by filing a Motion for Continuance. The motion must be provided to the opposing party, as well as OAH as soon as the need for a continuance is determined. The opposing party in the hearing will be given an opportunity to protest the granting of any continuance. A continuance will be granted by the Hearing Examiner at his discretion. Motion for Continuance