Caterpillar France and Caterpillar Suisse had been commissioning Compagnie de Maintenance Industrielle (CMI) since 1985 to paint equipment and machinery manufactured by Caterpillar. CMI subsequently began to notice in 2008 a reduction in the number of Caterpillar orders which continued into 2009, at which point CMI was placed under the protection of a judicial safeguard procedure. CMI then sued its partners for damages for the abrupt termination of an established business relationship.
In a judgment of February 12, 2013, the French Supreme Court ruled that the fall in orders could not be attributed to the Caterpillar companies, since they themselves had suffered a 70% slump in their own activity between 2007 and 2008, after “the 2008 economic and financial crisis which had serious repercussions on the building industries”.
The judges also noted the “distressed state of Caterpillar’s activity for the past several months” and concluded that there had been no abrupt partial termination of the established business relationship between CMI and the Caterpillar companies. This is a particularly welcome advance in case law, while naturally bearing in mind that someone who drastically reduces his volume of orders has to produce proof that he is just passing on the effect of his own difficulties.