JJM Sunrise Automotive, LLC, doing business as Lynbrook Audi, appellant,
Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., doing business as Audi of America, Inc., et al., respondent, et al., defendants. Index No. 601658/14
Fox LLP, New York, NY (Russell P. McRory, Mark A. Bloom, Lee
A. Pepper, and Dorie A. Fader of counsel), for appellant.
and Dykman LLP, Garden City, NY (Thomas S. Baylis and Andrew
E. Nieland of counsel), for respondent Volkswagen Group of
America, Inc., doing business as Audi of America, Inc.
Ward Coschignano, PLLC, Uniondale, NY (Jon A. Ward, Michael
H. Sahn, Andrew M. Roth, and Joseph R. Bjarnson of counsel),
for defendants Stanley Weinstock and Biener Auto Group, Inc.
REINALDO E. RIVERA, J.P. RUTH C. BALKIN BETSY BARROS VALERIE
BRATHWAITE NELSON, JJ.
DECISION & ORDER
action, inter alia, for declaratory relief, the plaintiff
appeals, as limited by its brief and by a letter dated
January 5, 2016, from so much of an order of the Supreme
Court, Nassau County (DeStefano, J.), entered November 13,
2014, as granted that branch of the motion of the defendant
Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., doing business as Audi of
America, Inc., which was pursuant to CPLR 3211(a) to dismiss
the first cause of action asserted against it.
that the order is affirmed insofar as appealed from, with
plaintiff commenced this action seeking, inter alia, a
declaration that the defendant Volkswagen Group of America,
Inc., doing business as Audi of America, Inc. (hereinafter
Audi), violated Vehicle and Traffic Law § 463(2)(ff).
The complaint alleged that in May 2013, the plaintiff
purchased the assets of Anchor Audi, an Audi dealership in
Lynbrook, New York, and entered into a dealer agreement with
Audi. The plaintiff was one of two Audi dealerships in Nassau
County; the second dealership was located in Great Neck and
operated by the defendants Biener Auto Group, Inc.
(hereinafter Beiner), and Stanley Weinstock. In December
2013, Audi advised the plaintiff that it planned to award a
new dealership in Westbury, New York, to Weinstock and
Beiner. The plaintiff's first cause of action alleged
that Audi's plan to award a new dealership in Westbury
constituted a modification of the plaintiff's franchise
in violation of Vehicle and Traffic Law § 463(2)(ff).
thereafter moved pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(1) and (7) to
dismiss, inter alia, the first cause of action, and the
Supreme Court granted that branch of Audi's motion.
Specifically, the court determined that the first cause of
action must be dismissed since Vehicle and Traffic Law §
463(2)(cc), which provided that a franchisor must establish
good cause for the addition of a new dealership in the
"relevant market area" of an existing dealership,
was the sole mechanism by which the plaintiff could challenge
Audi's proposed addition of the Westbury dealership. The
plaintiff appeals, arguing that the Supreme Court improperly
directed dismissal of the first cause of action.
statute or regulation... must be interpreted and enforced in
a reasonable... manner in accordance with its manifest intent
and purpose" (Matter of Sabot v Lavine, 42
N.Y.2d 1068, 1069). A statutory interpretation that is
"contrary to the dictates of reason or leads to
unreasonable results is presumed to be against the
legislative intent" (McKinney's Cons Laws of NY,
Book 1, Statutes § 143, Comment). "[W]hen presented
with a question of statutory interpretation, [the
court's] primary consideration is to ascertain and give
effect to the intention of the Legislature"
(Samiento v World Yacht Inc., 10 N.Y.3d 70, 77
[internal quotation marks omitted]; see Matter of
DaimlerChrysler Corp. v Spitzer, 7 N.Y.3d 653, 660).
Courts should construe a statute "to avoid rendering any
of its language superfluous" (Matter of Monroe
County Pub. School Dists. v Zyra, 51 A.D.3d 125, 130).
enacting the New York Franchised Motor Vehicle Dealer Act
(hereinafter the Dealer Act), codified at Vehicle and Traffic
Law § 460, "the legislature sought to address a
historical inequality in the vehicle franchise business that
favored automobile manufacturers over motor vehicle
dealers" (Beck Chevrolet Co., Inc. v General Motors
LLC, 27 N.Y.3d 379, 393; see Van Wie Chevrolet, Inc.
v General Motors, LLC, 145 A.D.3d 1). The Legislature
"expanded protections for dealers by enacting the Dealer
Act in derogation of common-law contract rules, statutorily
overriding agreement provisions that were unfair to dealers,
" and thereby "sought to affirmatively establish an
equilibrium of bargaining power'" (Beck
Chevrolet Co., Inc. v General Motors LLC, 27 N.Y.3d at
394, quoting Assembly Mem in Support, Bill Jacket, L 1983, ch
815 at 7).
the plaintiff does not dispute that the location of the
proposed new Westbury dealership is outside the
plaintiff's "relevant market area, " and thus,
the plaintiff cannot challenge the addition of that
dealership under Vehicle and Traffic Law § 463(2)(cc).
As a result, the plaintiff seeks to challenge the proposed
addition of the new dealership under Vehicle and Traffic Law
§ 463(2)(ff), which provides that a franchisor must give
notice to the dealer of any "modification" to the
dealer's franchise (Vehicle and Traffic Law §
463[ff]). However, permitting the plaintiff to
challenge the addition of the Westbury dealership under
Vehicle and Traffic Law § 463(2)(ff) would essentially
render the standing requirement and specific procedures set
forth in Vehicle and Traffic Law § 463(2)(cc)
superfluous (see Van Wie Chevrolet, Inc. v General
Motors, LLC, 145 A.D.3d at 8-9). As such, the Supreme
Court properly determined that Vehicle and Traffic Law §
463(2)(cc) is the sole mechanism under the Dealer Act by
which the plaintiff can challenge Audi's addition of the
proposed new Westbury dealership, and properly directed the
dismissal of the first cause of action.
plaintiff's remaining contention need not be reached in