After 10 years of litigation, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court unanimously determined that Ford Motor Company is required to pay Darling’s, a long-time Eaton Peabody client and Ford dealer, the damages Darling’s has incurred from April 1, 2005 to the present as a result of Ford’s unilateral decision to modify Darling’s franchise in violation of Maine law. To date, Darling’s has incurred substantial monetary damages and, pursuant to Maine law, Ford will be required to pay those damages and reimburse Darling’s for the attorney’s fees and costs it has incurred over the last decade in litigating this matter.
Darling’s, represented throughout the 10-year case by Eaton Peabody litigators, Judy A.S. Metcalf and Noreen Patient, commenced its action against Ford in July of 2006, by filing a complaint with the Maine Motor Vehicle Franchise Board. Under Ford’s Blue Oval Certified program, Ford was required to pay Darling’s 1.25% of the manufacturer’s base suggested retail price for every qualified new Ford vehicle it sold. In 2005, Ford illegally terminated the “Blue Oval Certified” payments owed to Darling’s under its franchise without first providing certified mail notice of its intent to terminate the payments and without first demonstrating the termination was appropriate under the requirements of the Maine Dealer Act.
Over the last 10 years, this matter was tried before the Maine Motor Vehicle Franchise Board, tried twice before juries in the Maine Business and Consumer Court, and was the subject of two Law Court appeals, the first decided in January of 2014 and the second decided earlier this week. In its November 29, 2016 decision, the Law Court, noting that its 2014 decision had already determined that Ford violated Maine law by terminating the payments without first providing the statutorily required notice to Darling’s, stated that “Ford always had the power to stop damages from accruing further by simply complying with the notice requirement of the statute, rather than by making what it described to the court as a business decision not to do so.” The Law Court concluded that a current franchise remains effective unless and until such notice of a proposed modification is provided and because “Ford has declined to satisfy the notice requirement, Darling’s damages have continued to accrue from April 1, 2005 when Ford terminated the [Blue Oval Certified] payments, until the present.”
The Law Court has now remanded this matter back to the Business and Consumer Court where the parties will conduct a third jury trial in this matter to determine the total amount of damages owed to Darling’s since April 1, 2005, pre-judgment and post-judgment interest owed on Darling’s total damage award, as well as a calculation of the attorney’s fees and costs owed to Darling’s by Ford.
The Law Court’s 2014 decision in Ford Motor Company v. Darling’s can be found at:
The Law Court’s 2016 decision in Ford Motor Company v. Darling’s can be found at: