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Darling's Auto Mall v. GM LLC

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

March 31, 2016

DARLING'S AUTO MALL
v.
GENERAL MOTORS LLC

         Argued December 10, 2015.

         On the briefs:

          Judy A.S. Metcalf, Esq., Eaton Peabody, Brunswick, for appellant Darling's Auto Mall.

         Joshua A. Randlett, Esq., Richardson, Whitman, Large & Badger, Bangor, for appellee General Motors LLC.

         At oral argument: Judy A.S. Metcalf, Esq., for appellant Darling's Auto Mall.

         Frederick J. Badger Jr., Richardson, Whitman, Large & Badger, Bangor, for appellee General Motors LLC.

         Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HJELM, JJ.

          OPINION

Page 820

          MEAD, J.

          [¶1] Darling's Auto Mall (Darling's or Darling's Auto) appeals from a judgment entered by the Superior Court (Penobscot County, Alexander, J. ) in favor of General Motors LLC following a jury trial on a small claims action. On appeal, Darling's contends that the court (1) improperly granted a jury trial de novo; (2) erred in denying Darling's Auto's motion for judgment as a matter of law; and (3) committed prejudicial error by rejecting Darling's Auto's proposed jury instructions. We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

          [¶2] Viewed in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, the evidence in the record supports the following facts. State v. Diana, 2014 ME 45, ¶ 2, 89 A.3d 132. Darling's is a GM franchisee and authorized dealer in Ellsworth. Pursuant to a Dealer Sales and Service Agreement between Darling's and GM, Darling's performs warranty repairs on qualified GM vehicles and, in exchange, GM reimburses Darling's for the labor and parts in connection with the warranty repairs.

          [¶3] Darling's, through the Dealer Sales and Service Agreement, is bound to perform warranty repairs in accordance with the provisions outlined in GM's Service Policies and Procedures Manual. In addition to the agreement, the franchise relationship is regulated by the Business Practices Between Motor Vehicle Manufacturers, Distributors and Dealers Act (Dealers Act), see 10 M.R.S. § § 1171 to 1190-A (2015).[1] In the event of a conflict between the terms of an agreement and the Dealers Act, the Dealers Act controls. See 10 M.R.S. § 1178 (" Written or oral agreements between a manufacturer, wholesaler or distributor with a motor vehicle dealer including . . . policies and ...


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