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Andy Mohr Truck Center, Inc. v. Volvo Trucks North America

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

May 6, 2015

ANDY MOHR TRUCK CENTER, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
VOLVO TRUCKS NORTH AMERICA, a division of VOLVO GROUP NORTH AMERICA LLC, Defendant.

ENTRY ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, District Judge.

Before the Court is the Defendant's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 313). The motion is fully briefed and the Court, being duly advised, DENIES the motion for the following reasons.

I. STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the admissible evidence presented by the non-moving party must be believed and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the non-movant's favor. Hemsworth v. Quotesmith.com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 490 (7th Cir. 2007); Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) ("We view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor."). However, "[a] party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial." Id. Finally, the non-moving party bears the burden of specifically identifying the relevant evidence of record, and "the court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment." Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001).

II. BACKGROUND

The facts that follow are those taken in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, Andy Mohr Truck Center ("Mohr Truck"). Many of these facts are disputed by Defendant Volvo Trucks North America ("Volvo").

This case arises out of a business relationship turned sour after Volvo appointed Mohr Truck as a new Volvo Trucks dealer. In early 2010, Volvo's then-current central Indiana Volvo Trucks and Mack Trucks dealer announced that he was resigning as a Volvo Trucks franchisee. Seeing an opportunity to enter into the Class 8 heavy-duty truck market, Andy Mohr decided to pursue the possibility of acquiring the Volvo Trucks franchise for Indianapolis, Indiana. Specifically, Mohr was interested in combining a Volvo Trucks franchise with a Mack Trucks franchise.

On March 10, 2010, therefore, Mohr submitted his Volvo Dealer Application. Subsequently, Mohr traveled to Greensboro, North Carolina to meet with various Volvo and Mack Trucks executives. During these meetings, Volvo executives represented that they would grant Mohr a Mack Trucks franchise in a separate transaction if Mohr first entered into a separate agreement to become a Volvo Trucks dealer ("the Mack Trucks Misrepresentation"). Keen on this idea, Mohr signed the Volvo Dealer Sales and Service Agreement ("the Dealer Agreement") on March 30, 2010, and opened for business as a Volvo Trucks dealer on April 20, 2010.

Unfortunately, after April 20, 2010, things turned south between Volvo and Mohr. It became clear sometime after July 2010 that Mohr would not be awarded a Mack Trucks franchise. Mohr was told that if he wanted the Mack Trucks franchise he would have to buy it; ultimately, however, the Mack Trucks franchise was sold to someone else. Mohr informed Volvo that because of this, Volvo was in breach of their agreements and, in retaliation, Volvo began to discriminate against Mohr Truck, costing it several would-be profitable deals.

To understand how Volvo discriminated against Mohr Truck, a bit of background is needed. Class 8 heavy-duty trucks are sold in a competitive market; generally, customers solicit bids from multiple dealers before purchasing them. As a result, Volvo dealers often ask Volvo to give them price concessions (a discount on the wholesale price), warranty concessions (a discount on the price of an extended warranty), or trade-in overallowances (a price for a trade-in that is over the amount of what the trade-in is really worth). In order to determine what concessions to give, Volvo refers to its Retail Sales Assistance ("RSA") policy. As every wouldbe transaction is unique, Volvo evaluates RSA requests on a case-by-case basis; however, Volvo equalizes concessions when two Volvo dealer are bidding on the same transaction-the same customer, date, and specifications. Ultimately, the "competitive circumstances" surrounding the transaction drive the RSA process; however common factors Volvo considers are: 1) the truck price offered by its competitors; 2) the customer's purchase history; 3) the quantity of trucks in the transaction; 4) the truck specifications; and 5) Volvo's factory production capacity.

Between 2010 and 2012, Mohr Truck requested certain concession percentages-for price, warranties, and trade-ins-from Volvo for various potential transactions. Volvo repeatedly offered other Volvo franchisees better concessions than it offered Mohr Truck; as a result of this discriminatory conduct, Mohr Truck lost at least thirteen deals.

Volvo sued Mohr Truck and Mohr on May 22, 2012; Mohr Truck sued Volvo on June 22, 2012. The cases were consolidated into the present action. Most claims have been resolved by motions to dismiss, motions for judgment on the pleadings, and motions for summary judgment. The sole remaining claim left in this case is Mohr Truck's claim for price discrimination under the Indiana Unfair Practices Act ("IUPA") and Indiana Deceptive Franchise Practices Act ("IDFPA").

III. DISCUSSION

Volvo seeks summary judgment on Mohr Truck's claim brought pursuant to the IUPA/IDFPA for price discrimination. See Ind. Code ยง 23-2-2.7-2(5) ("It is unlawful for any franchisor... to... [d]iscriminat[e] unfairly among its franchisees[.]"). Volvo makes two arguments in support of its summary judgment motion. First, it argues that the limitation of remedies provision in Mohr Truck's Dealer Agreement precludes Mohr Truck's recovery. Second, it argues that Mohr Truck has not met its prima facie case of discrimination under the IUPA/IDFPA. The Court addresses both arguments below.

A. Limitation of Remedies

Volvo first argues that the limitation of remedies clause found in the Dealer Agreement precludes Mohr Truck's recovery. The limitation of remedies clause reads as follows:

A limitation of remedies and damages will apply to any action, suit, other proceeding, or dispute between the Company and the ...

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