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Loomis Truck & Tractor Inc. v. J.I. Case Co.

filed: December 3, 1991.

LOOMIS TRUCK & TRACTOR, INC.; SUN AG, INC., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
J.I. CASE COMPANY; TENNECO ASSET PLANNING CO., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington. D.C. No. CV-89-163-JLQ. Justin L. Quackenbush, District Judge, Presiding.

Before: Wright, Hug, and Leavy, Circuit Judges.

MEMORANDUM

Two farm implement dealers sued their equipment supplier alleging, inter alia, breach of contract and violation of state franchise and consumer protection laws, based on the supplier's failure to prevent one of its company stores from competing directly with the dealers in what they believed to be their sales regions. The district court granted the supplier's motion for summary judgment, and the dealers have appealed. We affirm.

1. Breach of Contract Claims

Sun Ag, Inc. ("Sun") and Loomis Truck & Tractor, Inc. ("Loomis") first argue that the J. I. Case Company ("Case") breached the terms of their Dealership Agreements by failing to provide them with Trade Areas. This contention is meritless. Nothing in the Dealership Agreements states or implies that Case dealers are entitled to exclusive Trade Areas, and the record shows only that Case gave its dealers unrestricted Trade Areas. Moreover, as the district court noted,

If Case were giving its independent dealers exclusive areas of trade, then plaintiffs would have been restricted from selling Case products in other dealer's [sic] areas; however, the uncontroverted evidence shows to the contrary. Although claiming the benefits of an exclusive trade area, plaintiffs have failed to present any facts to indicate that it [sic] assumed any associated burdens (e.g., limitation of sales, an obligation to provide warranty service within a particular area, or market penetration requirements within an area established by Case) of an exclusive trade area.

2. FIPA Claims

a. Section 19.100.170

It is unlawful to sell or offer to sell a franchise in the State of Washington by means of an oral or written communication that misrepresents or omits a material fact. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 19.100.170(2) (West 1989). Sun and Loomis argue that Case violated this provision when Case failed to provide them with exclusive Trade Areas. We reject this argument for the reasons stated above.

b. Section 19.100.180

Sun and Loomis also asserted four claims under this section. On appeal they have abandoned one of these, viz., their anti-kickback claim under section 19.100.180(2)(e). Notwithstanding Sun and Loomis' arguments to the contrary, their remaining claims under this section are effectively grounded on the contention that Case breached its contracts with them by failing to provide them with exclusive Trade Areas. For the reasons set forth above, these arguments must also fail.

3. CPA Claims

Sun and Loomis next argue that Case's failure to provide them with exclusive Trade Areas runs afoul of Washington's Consumer Protection Act ("CPA"). We reject this contention.

The CPA prohibits "unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce". Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 19.86.020 (West 1989). The phrase "unfair methods of competition" means just that, i.e., it applies only to acts against business competitors, not consumers. Boggs v. Whitaker, Lipp & Helea, Inc., 56 Wash. App. 583, 784 P.2d 1273, 1275 (citations omitted), review denied, 114 Wash. 2d 1018, 791 P.2d 535 (1990). Although the statute does not define "unfair or deceptive acts or practices", see Potter v. Wilbur-Ellis Co., 62 Wash. App. 318, 814 P.2d 670, 674 (1991), the ...


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