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Southern Motors Chevrolet, Inc. v. General Motors, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division

March 31, 2015

SOUTHERN MOTORS CHEVROLET, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
GENERAL MOTORS, LLC, Defendant.

ORDER

WILLIAM T. MOORE, Jr., District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 25), to which Plaintiff has filed a response in opposition (Doc. 26). Defendant has also filed a reply. (Doc. 30.) In its motion, Defendant seeks to dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 25) is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

Myron Kaminsky and his two sons, Adam and Ross Kaminsky (the Kaminskys"), own and operate a number of car dealerships in and around Chatham and Effingham County, Georgia. (Doc. 24 ¶ 7.) The Kaminskys are white. (Id. ¶ 8.) This case arises from the Kaminskys's failed attempt to purchase a car dealership located in Rincon, Georgia (the Dealership") from a Mr. B.G. Fuller in early 2014.[1] (Id. ¶ 27.) Plaintiff is a corporation created by the Kaminksys for the purpose of completing the transaction. (Id. ¶ 9.)

In or around December 2013 or January 2014, the Kaminskys entered into an agreement with Mr. Fuller to purchase the Dealership. (Id.) Shortly thereafter, Mr. Fuller notified Defendant of his intent to sell the Dealership to the Kaminksys. (Id.) Because Defendant is the franchisor of the Dealership, Defendant has certain rights with regard to its sale and purchase. (Id.) Throughout the early portion of 2014, the Kaminksys created a business plan, secured financing, and completed paperwork in preparation for their purchase of the Dealership. (Id. ¶ 10.)

In January 2014, however, Defendant was in contact with a Mr. Winston R. Pittman, Sr. regarding his potential purchase of the Dealership. (Id. ¶ 20.) Mr. Pittman is African-American and a majority or sole owner of another Savannah area car dealership, Chatham Parkway Toyota. (Id. ¶ 19.). At roughly the same time the Kaminksys were engaging in preparatory work for their prospective purchase, Mr. Pittman incorporated multiple new entities through which to acquire the Dealership. (Id. ¶ 21.)

According to Plaintiff, Defendant came under fire from civil rights leader Jesse Jackson in October 2012-prior to the events from which this case arises-for the limited number of minority-owned car dealerships retailing Defendant's vehicles. (Id. ¶ 14.) Mr. Jackson, among others, urged Defendant to adopt a strategy to boost the number of minority-owned dealerships in the wake of the Federal Government's bailout of the United States automotive industry. (Id.) In response, Defendant's then-CEO Dan Akerson stated his commitment to recruiting more African-American dealership owners in the future. (Id.)

In July 2013, Defendant's North American President-Mark Reuss-stated during a panel discussion at an automotive industry conference that the company wanted to add twenty-five minority-owned dealerships by the end of the year. (Id. ¶ 15.) Another of Defendant's executives-Eric Peterson-further stated to reporters that Defendant would work with dealers who wanted to sell their stores, but who did not already have buyers, "hoping to snag stores for minority dealers." (Id.) Mr. Peterson also indicated that Defendant had exercised its right of first refusal on dealership transactions in the past and would continue to do so in the future. (Id.) According to the amended complaint, Defendant believes exercising such a right can "open the door for a minority buyer." (Id.) Defendant ultimately added twenty-one minority owners in 2013, although Mr. Peterson later indicated that the company was again aiming for twenty-five additions in 2014. (Id. ¶¶ 16-17.)

In March 2014, Defendant informed Plaintiff that Defendant was exercising its right of first refusal with regard to the sale of the Dealership. (Id. ¶ 27.) On March 26, 2014, Plaintiff's counsel submitted to Defendant for reimbursement an accounting of expenses incurred in preparation of Plaintiff's attempted purchase of the dealership. (Id. ¶ 28.) On April 17, 2014, Defendant sent a letter to Plaintiff indicating its refusal to reimburse Plaintiff for some of the expenses included in Plaintiff's accounting-specifically, expenses attributed to time spent by the Kaminskys and their employees preparing for the purchase. (Id. ¶ 29.)

On April 30, 2014, Plaintiff initiated this action against Defendant. (Doc. 1.) On August 16, 2014, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint alleging that Defendant racially discriminated against Plaintiff's white owners in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and § 1982 by refusing to allow Plaintiff to purchase the Dealership. (Doc. 24 ¶[ 31-54.) Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant violated the Georgia Motor Vehicle Franchise Practices Act because Defendant arbitrarily rejected Plaintiff's agreed-upon deal with Mr. Fuller and refused to pay Plaintiff's reasonable expenses incurred during the attempted purchase. (Id. ¶¶ 55-62.) On September 6, 2014, Defendant filed the present Motion to Dismiss, arguing that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Doc. 25.) Plaintiff has filed a response (Doc. 26), to which Defendant has filed a reply (Doc. 30).

ANALYSIS

I. MOTION TO DISMISS STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 (a) (2) requires a complaint to contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." "[T]he pleading standard Rule B announces does not require detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the- defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Aschroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).[2] "A pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Igbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotations omitted). "Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement." Id.

When the Court considers a motion to dismiss, it accepts the well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true. Sinaltrainal v. Coca-Cola Co., 578 F.3d 1252, 1260 (11th Cii. 2009). However, this Court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Moreover, unwarranted deductions of fact in a complaint are not admitted as true for the purpose of testing the sufficiency of plaintiff's allegations." Sinaltrainal, 578 F.3d at 1268. That is, "[t]he rule does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, ' but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation ...


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