Litigation attorney Michael J. Weikert obtained a victory for his auto dealer client by fighting a claim that would have resulted in the dealership being unable to obtain a newly awarded Dodge franchise from Chrysler.
The plaintiff argued that under recent changes to the Michigan Motor Vehicle Dealer Franchise Act, it was entitled to notice from Chrysler and an opportunity to object because the Dodge franchise awarded to Weikert’s client would be within its relevant market area. The definition of relevant market area was changed from 6 miles to 9 miles in the amendment to the Franchise Act. The change in definition resulted in the awarded Dodge franchise being within the plaintiff’s relevant market area. The awarded Dodge franchise was not within the plaintiff’s relevant market area prior to the amendment to the statute and at the point in time in which Chrysler and Weikert’s client entered into a contract for the award of the franchise.
Weikert argued that the plaintiff was not entitled to notice or an opportunity to object to the award of the Dodge franchise to his client. Specifically, Weikert argued that amendments to a statute cannot be applied retroactively to upset vested contract rights that existed prior to the amendment.
The Washtenaw County Circuit Court agreed with Weikert’s analysis and granted Summary Disposition in favor of Chrysler and Weikert’s client, paving the way for it to receive the award of the Dodge franchise involved. This is a case of first impression and a similar case is pending in federal court involving Kia and two Kia franchises.
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