Sutherland has one of the nation's premier practices in dealer, distributor and franchise litigation, with a special focus on the automotive industry, but also including many other industries.
The relationships between automobile, truck and motorcycle manufacturers and importers and their dealers are regulated by federal statute and by the laws of virtually every state. Typically, the state agency with responsibility for licensing dealers also hears disputes between manufacturers and their dealers concerning the appointment of additional dealers and the relocation of existing dealers, the termination of dealers by manufacturers, and the transfer of ownership in dealerships. These disputes are litigated before administrative law judges, whose decisions are subject to review by the state agency, and ultimately by the courts of the state. In disputes involving the addition and relocation of dealerships, existing dealers of the same line may file a protest which requires the manufacturer to prove the need for the additional or relocated dealer. In termination cases, a dealer receives a notice of intent by the manufacturer or importer indicating its intent to terminate the dealer, together with the grounds for that termination. The dealer may contest the proposed termination. Ownership transfers are also litigated, with the manufacturer being required to prove appropriate grounds for the rejection of a proposed new owner or manager. Civil litigation, in state and federal courts, involving damages and injunctive relief, often arises as a result of or an adjunct to the disputes.
For additional information, please contact Nick Christakos at 202.383.0184 or John Fleming at 404.853.8065.
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