Distribution/Dealer Law

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The world revolves around the manufacturing and production of products. Many manufacturers rely on relationships with distributors, dealers and/or sales representatives to disseminate their products into the marketplace, both nationally and internationally. The Distribution/Dealer Practice Group at Briggs and Morgan focuses on addressing the various legal issues that arise in connection with the distribution of products into the market place and the relationships between manufacturers and their distributors, dealers and/or sales representatives.

State regulation of the relationships between manufacturers and their distribution entities has become more and more prevalent. As more states develop and enact statutory regulations and restrictions that cover distribution relationships in specific product areas, it becomes increasingly important for those manufacturers to stay on top of the restrictions that may impact the relationships with their distributors, dealers and sales representatives. Our attorneys have worked extensively with many of these statutes and provide counsel and guidance to manufacturers to help avoid unnecessary litigation and arbitration. Our group has developed various 50-state surveys and summaries, that are updated regularly, which set forth the statutory restrictions in connection with various industries, including, marine products, motor vehicles, snowmobiles, farm equipment, powersports equipment and recreational products. In addition, we have developed our own 50-state survey regarding statutes pertaining to sales representatives. These surveys allow our attorneys to provide quick, accurate and up-to-date advice and counseling to manufacturers in numerous industries on a nationwide basis and help manufacturers develop a course of action consistent with applicable statutory regulations.

Attorneys in our Practice Group counsel manufacturers to help them draft new, or revise existing, dealer or distribution agreements to obtain the maximum benefit and protections for the company. We counsel them in connection with terminations, non-renewals or changes in competitive circumstances, to make sure all possible steps are taken to comply with requirements set forth in their dealer/distribution agreement and any applicable statute or regulation. Our attorneys also counsel manufacturers on whether pricing, marketing, promotional or advertising programs comply with requirements of individual state and/or federal laws. This counseling provided by our attorneys often includes issues pertaining to antitrust, trademark, patent and licensing requirements.

In addition to counseling, our attorneys regularly litigate and arbitrate cases involving disputes between manufacturers and dealers, distributors and/or sales representatives throughout the United States. This can include seeking or defeating requests for injunctive relief, defeating wrongful termination or non-renewal claims, collection of wrongfully withheld fees/payments and breach of contract claims. Our attorneys have successfully handled, defeated and resolved claims under the Minnesota Termination of Sales Representative Act; the Minnesota Heavy and Utility Equipment Manufacturers and Dealers Act; the Minnesota Motor Vehicle Sale and Distribution Act; the Minnesota Farm and Equipment Dealership Act; the Georgia Marine Manufacturer Act; the Louisiana Used Motor Vehicle and Marine Product Dealers Act; the Montana Canceled Dealership Contracts Repurchase Requirements Act; the New York Motor Vehicle Dealer Act; the New York Vessel Dealer Agreements Act; the North Dakota Recreation Vehicle Franchises Act; the Rhode Island Fair Dealership Act; the Texas Boat Manufacturers, Distributors and Dealers Act; and the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law. We also handle administrative and regulatory hearings on behalf of manufacturers on various topics. The background, experience and preparation of our team of litigators allows us to effectively and efficiently handle any distribution adversary proceeding in any forum pertaining to any legal issue faced by a manufacturer.

Representative Matters

  • Assisted clients in collection of payments due from dealers in connection with the purchase and sale of products produced by the manufacturer.
  • Assisted clients in complex registration process for obtaining manufacturing, sales representative and dealer licenses in connection with marine products in Louisiana.
  • Brought action under Minn. Stat § 80E.14 that prevented addition of automobile dealership within client's relevant market area.
  • Extensive experience enforcing arbitration clauses and successfully arguing FAA preemption of state statutes restricting arbitration.
  • Extensive experience under the Minnesota Sales Representative Act.
  • Obtained arbitration award for monetary damages for breach of dealer contract and an award of costs and expenses incurred in connection with the arbitration, including attorney fees. Four Winns Boats, L.L.C. n.k.a. Genmar Michigan, L.L.C. v. Navalship
  • Obtained numerous arbitration awards for monetary damages for breach of dealer contracts and awards of costs and expenses, including attorneys' fees, incurred in connection with the arbitrations.
  • Obtained order compelling out-of-state arbitration regarding dealer termination matter and staying lawsuit pending completion of arbitration. Sun Country Marine v. Wood Manufacturing Company, Inc., et al 
  • Obtained summary judgment in arbitration dismissing claims under the Michigan Franchise Investment Law. Grand Bay Marine v. Four Winns Boats, L.L.C.
  • Obtained summary judgment on all claims involving allegations of wrongly publishing picture in yearbook, including claims alleged under the New Jersey Anti Pornography statute.
  • Regularly represent franchisors in connection with the filing and updating of franchise disclosure documents and registration materials on a state-by-state basis.
  • Regularly counsels worldwide manufacturer of recreational vehicles regarding compliance with motor and recreational vehicle dealer laws throughout the United States.
  • Significant experience with the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law (WFDL).
  • Successfully defended claims of wrongful termination by Mexican Distributor.
  • Successfully enforced binding arbitration clause as to dealer termination claims brought in Puerto Rico under the Puerto Rico Dealer Act.
  • Successfully represented manufacturer against dealer in India who alleged wrongful termination of dealer agreement. Successfully enforced United States arbitration clause, and obtained arbitration judgment against dealer on dealer's claims and on affirmative claims for past due amounts under dealer agreement.
  • Tried one-week arbitration defending wrongful termination claims of largest dealer of luxury yacht manufacturer, resulting in complete defense judgment.
  • Won arbitration judgment dismissing wrongful termination and business tort claims by a German dealer of client boat manufacturer.