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Sims Buick-Gmc Truck, Inc. v. General Motors LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

November 20, 2017

Sims Buick-GMC Truck, Inc., Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
General Motors LLC, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued: October 4, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Youngstown. No. 4:14-cv-02238-Solomon Oliver Jr., District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Christopher M. DeVito, MORGANSTERN, MACADAMS & DEVITO CO., L.P.A., Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellant.

          J. Todd Kennard, JONES DAY, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Christopher M. DeVito, MORGANSTERN, MACADAMS & DEVITO CO., L.P.A., Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellant.

          J. Todd Kennard, JONES DAY, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellee.

          John C. Camillus, STOCKAMP & BROWN, LLC, Dublin, Ohio, for Amicus Curiae.

          Before: CLAY, ROGERS, and SUTTON, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          SUTTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         General Motors provides sales incentives to dealers who sell cars to GM employees, retirees, and their family members at a discounted rate. As part of the process, the dealer must collect a signed agreement from the purchaser that establishes his eligibility for the program. In 2014, General Motors audited one of its dealers, Sims Buick-GMC Truck, and discovered a number of transactions in which Sims had failed to collect the agreement from purchasers within the timeline set by General Motors. GM debited Sims' account $47, 493.28 for improper incentive payments, and Sims filed this lawsuit alleging breach of contract and violations of the Ohio Dealer Act. The district court granted summary judgment for General Motors. Because the parties' dealership arrangement permitted the debit and because a timely filed Consumer Dealer Agreement constitutes "material documentation" under § 4517.59(A)(20)(a) of the Ohio Dealer Act, we affirm.

         I.

         Sims Buick-GMC Truck sells GM cars and trucks in Warren, Ohio. It participates in GM's Vehicle Purchase Program, which allows GM employees, retirees, and their family members, among other affiliates, to buy vehicles at a reduced price. Each sale under the Purchase Program entitles the dealer to a financial incentive payment. After the dealer sells a vehicle to an eligible purchaser, the dealer submits an incentive claim to GM, and GM issues a credit to the dealer. Sims is located near a large GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio, and the Purchase Program accounts for 80% to 90% of its sales.

         Under the Purchase Program, the dealer must collect and submit a number of forms, including a Consumer Dealer Agreement. The Consumer Agreement includes the purchaser's name, qualification for participation in the Purchase Program, and an authorization number generated by General Motors and provided to the purchaser.

         General Motors initially did not impose any timing requirement on when dealers collected the Consumer Agreement. But in 2012, it issued a bulletin that required dealers to obtain a Consumer Agreement when they delivered the vehicle to the purchaser. General Motors ...


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