Supreme Court Summaries

Opinions filed December 1, 2011

Crossroads Ford Truck Sales, Inc. v. Sterling Truck Corporation, 2011 IL 111611

Appellate citation: 406 Ill. App. 3d 325.

JUSTICE GARMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Karmeier, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

Plaintiff Crossroads Ford Truck Sales, located in Springfield, has been a franchised dealer for Sterling trucks since 1998, selling new vehicles and parts, as well as providing service.

Defendant Daimler Trucks owns defendant Sterling Trucks Corporation and also manufactures Freightliner and Western Star brand trucks. A decision was made to adopt a "two brand strategy," which would discontinue the Sterling truck brand due to overlap with offerings in the other Daimler truck lines and due to low market penetration. It was contemplated that additions would be made to the Freightliner and Western Star product ranges in order to address those market segments that had been served exclusively by Sterling franchises. Production of Sterling trucks would cease on March 26, 2009, with last orders to be taken January 15, 2009. Plaintiff Crossroads and other Sterling dealerships were notified of these changes in October of 2008.

Previously, Crossroads had been able to obtain, at wholesale prices, engines and parts used in Sterling, Freightliner and Western Star vehicles for the performance of warranty work on those vehicles. Crossroads was warned that it would not be allowed to continue to do this work if it did not agree to terminate its Sterling franchise and sign a general release. It did not so agree, and filed suit in the circuit court of Sangamon County, ultimately asserting, in its second amended complaint, that it had been wronged by the defendants and seeking damages for its losses. Breach of contract, tort claims, and fraud were alleged, as well as violations of the Motor Vehicle Franchise Act (815 ILCS 710/1 et seq.).

Of the 14 counts of the final complaint, 12 were dismissed by the circuit court and are the origins of this appeal. Crossroads sought interlocutory review and the appellate court upheld all the dismissals, finding failure to state a cause of action as to some and lack of subject matter jurisdiction as to others. Crossroads was granted leave to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Effective July 14, 1995, the Act had been amended to create a Motor Vehicle Review Board to hear dealer protests under the Act. Plaintiff, in the complaint, alleged that there was no "good cause" for the actions taken by the defendants and that this lack of good cause was a violation of the Act. However, the supreme court held here that, as provided by the 1995 amendments, determinations as to good cause are to be made by the Board, not by a circuit court. The amendments had been enacted in response to the Illinois Supreme Court's decision in Fields Jeep-Eagle, Inc. v. Chrysler Corp., 163 Ill. 2d 462 (1994), which held that the making of such good-cause determinations by the judiciary violates the separation of powers.

Concerning the complaint counts as to which the appellate court found a lack of subject matter jurisdiction and affirmed the circuit court's dismissals, the appellate court was affirmed in this decision. Insofar as the appellate court affirmed the dismissal of other counts for failure to state a cause of action, the plaintiff did not bring those counts before the supreme court in the petition for leave to appeal, and those issues are forfeited.

If the plaintiff can obtain a finding from the Motor Vehicle Review Board that there was no good cause for the actions taken by the defendants, if may then bring suit in the circuit court and seek damages.

The appellate court was affirmed.