The Dealer Services Group of Duane Morris has won a major victory for a truck dealership client in a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, paving the way for the dealership's claims to be heard by a jury. The court decision is an important precedent that potentially provides protection to other dealerships facing discriminatory or unfair treatment.
In the case, the dealership claims that a truck manufacturer violated federal antitrust laws by participating in a scheme to use discriminatory treatment to drive it out of business. Among other things, the dealership claims that the manufacturer improperly manipulated the sales assistance system by systematically granting lower discounts to the dealership than to others and also by intentionally delaying the award of sales assistance to the dealership. The dealership is seeking treble damages of in excess of $30 million, as well as recovery of attorneys fees and litigation costs.
The Court of Appeals' decision overturns a lower court ruling that the dealership was not entitled to present its claims to a jury because it had waited too long to file suit after the claim arose. The Court of Appeals also reversed a lower court ruling that the dealership had not offered sufficient evidence supporting its claim to permit the claim to be submitted to the jury for deliberation. The appeals court ruled that a jury, not a judge, should analyze the evidence and make a decision on the dealership's antitrust claims. The appeals court also ruled that there was sufficient evidence of the scheme for a jury to find in the dealership's favor. The 53-page opinion in the case, Toledo Mack v. Mack Trucks, Inc., is available at http://www.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/071811p.pdf.
This case offers a good example of the protection that may be available to dealers under federal and state laws when they believe they are faced with arbitrary or unfair treatment.