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General Motors Corp. v. DealMaker

May 8, 2009

GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DEALMAKER, LLC, D/B/A SEAWAY CHEVROLET, DEFENDANT/COUNTERCLAIMANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas J. McAVOY, Senior United States District Judge

DECISION & ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff General Motors Corporation ("GM" or "Plaintiff") commenced this action against one of its authorized dealerships, DealMaker, LLC, d/b/a Seaway Chevrolet ("Seaway" or "Defendant"), seeking a declaratory judgment that GM was within its contractual rights to reject Defendant's proposed relocation request under the terms of the Dealer Sales and Service Agreement ("Agreement"). See Compl., Ex. "A" [dkt. # 1]. Defendant filed an Answer and Counterclaim asserting various claims against GM. See Ans. [dkt. # 4].*fn1 On August 23, 2007, the Court issued a Decision and Order that dismissed the majority of Defendant's counterclaims. See 08/23/07 Dec. & Ord. [dkt. 27]. Familiarity with this Decision and Order is presumed. Remaining in the case are Plaintiff's declaratory judgment claim and Defendant's counterclaims asserting (1) a breach of the Agreement by GM, and (2) that GM violated § 466(1) of the New York Franchised Motor Vehicle Dealer Act.

Plaintiff and Defendant have cross-moved for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, and Defendant has filed a motion in limine to preclude Plaintiff from offering expert testimony in this matter. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is granted and Defendant's motions are denied.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate if "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). When considering cross-motions for summary judgment, a court "'must evaluate each party's motion on its own merits, taking care in each instance to draw all reasonable inferences against the party whose motion is under consideration.'" Hotel Employees & Rest. Employees Union, Local 100 of N.Y. v. City of N.Y. Dep't of Parks & Recreation, 311 F.3d 534, 543 (2d Cir. 2002) (quoting Heublein, Inc. v. United States, 996 F.2d 1455, 1461 (2d Cir. 1993)). "[N]either side is barred from asserting that there are issues of fact, sufficient to prevent the entry of judgment, as a matter of law, against it . . . [and] a district court is not required to grant judgment as a matter of law for one side or the other." Heublein, Inc., 996 F.2d at 1461.

III. BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken in the light most favorable to Seaway, the non-movant on GM's motion for summary judgment. See Hotel Employees & Rest. Employees Union, Local 100 of N.Y., 311 F.3d at 543.

Seaway operates a Chevrolet dealership in Theresa, New York pursuant to the Chevrolet Dealer Sales and Service Agreement ("Agreement") it entered with GM. GM's L.R. 7.1 Stat. of Mat. Facts ("GM 7.1 Stat.") ¶ 1.*fn2 Article 4 of the Agreement addresses the locations of the authorized dealerships within GM's dealer network. Paragraph 4.1, entitled "Dealer Network Planning," provides as follows:

Because General Motors distributes its Products through a network of authorized dealers operating from approved locations, those dealers must be appropriate in number, located properly, and have proper facilities to represent and service General Motors Products competitively and to permit each dealer the opportunity to achieve a reasonable return on investment if it fulfills its obligations under its Dealer Agreement. Through such a dealer network, General Motors can maximize the convenience of customers in purchasing Products and having them serviced. As a result, customers, dealers, and General Motors all benefit.

To maximize the effectiveness of its dealer network, General Motors agrees to monitor marketing conditions and strive, to the extent practicable, to have dealers appropriate in number, size and location to achieve the objectives stated above. Such marketing conditions include General Motors sales and registration performance, present and future demographic and economic considerations, competitive dealer networks, the ability of General Motors existing dealers to achieve the objectives stated above, the opportunities available to existing dealers, the alignment of Line-Makes, General Motors dealer network plan, and other appropriate circumstances.

Agreement, ¶ 4.1

Paragraph 4.4.2 of the Agreement, entitled "Change in Location or Use of Premises," provides:

If Dealer wants to make any change in location(s) or Premises, or in the uses previously approved for those Premises, Dealer will give General Motors written notice of the proposed change, together with the reasons for the proposal, for General Motors['] evaluation and final decision in light of dealer network planning considerations . No change in location or in the use of Premises, including addition of any other vehicle ...


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