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MOORE v. FORD MOTOR CO.

September 22, 1995

GEORGE W. MOORE, Plaintiff,
v.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBERT W. GETTLEMAN

 Plaintiff George W. Moore filed his original complaint on February 13, 1992, against defendant Ford Motor Company ("Ford") alleging that Ford: (1) violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et. seq. (the "ADEA") (Count I); and, (2) breached an oral contract to give plaintiff financial assistance to purchase a Ford dealership (Count II). Subsequently, plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint, a Second Amended Complaint, and on March 3, 1995, filed an Amendment to the Second Amended Complaint. *fn1"

 In his Second Amended Complaint plaintiff alleges that Ford: (1) violated the ADEA when it did not allow plaintiff into its Minority Dealer Training Program (the "Training Program") and did not provide plaintiff with financial assistance to purchase a dealership (Count I); (2) willfully and knowingly showed reckless disregard for whether its conduct was prohibited by the ADEA (Count II); and (3) breached an oral contract in which Ford allegedly promised plaintiff that it would award him a new dealership (Count III). In the Amendment to the Second Amended Complaint plaintiff added a claim against Ford alleging promissory estoppel based on Ford's alleged promise to finance and award plaintiff a Ford dealership. Ford has filed a summary judgment motion addressing all of plaintiff's claims.

 FACTS

 Plaintiff was born in 1944, and began working in the automobile business in 1971 at Al Abrahms Pontiac. Plaintiff worked for various automobile agencies as a sales manager, salesperson and finance manger over the next nine years. In 1980, plaintiff went to work at Rogers Pontiac as a general sales manager.

 In early 1989, while working at Rogers Pontiac, plaintiff contacted Ford and requested a dealership application. On March 29, 1989, plaintiff filled out a Ford prospective dealer application. In this application plaintiff stated that he would operate any dealership Ford awarded to him as a sole proprietorship under the name "George Moore," and would do business under the name "Moore Ford." In April 1989, plaintiff met with Thomas Catanese ("Catanese"), Ford's market representation manager. In this meeting Catanese told plaintiff that Ford was considering building a store in the Chicago suburbs, but would not tell plaintiff the exact location of the store.

 On May 14, 1989, plaintiff was discharged from Rogers Pontiac. Plaintiff alleges that he was fired at this time because he was unable to make a deal with Ford to help purchase a Ford dealership. Following his termination, between the end of May and July 1989, plaintiff met and spoke with Catanese and Edward Moneagle ("Moneagle"), a Ford regional market representation manager, at different times. Throughout these conversations Catanese told plaintiff that: (1) plaintiff would need 12 1/2% of the capitalized cost or approximately $ 100,000.00 to get a dealership; (2) the earlier discussed dealership was going to be built in Aurora; (3) if the Aurora dealership was not built, Ford would finance another location for plaintiff. Also during these conversations, plaintiff told Catanese that he would have to sell his house to raise the required capital. Plaintiff did not put his house up for sale or tender any money to Catanese or Ford.

 In November or December, 1989, plaintiff found out that he did not get the Aurora, Illinois, Ford dealership. Ford awarded the Aurora dealership to Ray Fregia ("Fregia"), a minority, and Joseph Hennessey ("Hennessey"). When they received the dealership, Fregia had been a Ford employee for eighteen years and Hennessey had owned and operated a successful Ford dealership in the Chicago area for twenty-five years.

 DISCUSSION

 Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), a court should grant a summary judgement motion if "there is no genuine issue of material fact and... the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." The burden is on the moving party to identify portions of the pleadings, answers to interrogatories, and affidavits which demonstrate an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id.; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986). The burden then shifts to the non-moving party to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

 The opposing party must set forth specific facts, through affidavits or other materials, that demonstrate disputed material facts. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2514, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202. When reviewing a summary judgement motion, the court must read the facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2513, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986). The court's role "is not to evaluate the weight of the evidence or to determine the truth of the matter, but instead to determine whether there is a genuine issue of triable fact." Doe v. R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company, 42 F.3d 439, 443 (7th Cir. 1994).

 Plaintiff alleges that defendant violated the ADEA in two ways: (1) when it denied him financial assistance to purchase a Ford dealership; and, (2) when Ford did not allow him entry into the Training Program. Because the timing and facts surrounding each of these issues differ, the court will address them separately.

 ADEA FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE CLAIM

 Defendant asserts that plaintiff's financial assistance claim fails as a matter of law because there is no employer-employee relationship between plaintiff and defendant and, therefore, plaintiff cannot recover for any of plaintiff's alleged actions under the ADEA. *fn2" The ADEA prohibits age discrimination by employers, employment agencies, and labor organizations. 29 U.S.C. § 623. Ford asserts that it is not an employment agency or a labor organization, and that it does not have an employer-employee relationship with people to whom it gives financial assistance to purchase Ford dealerships. In its original brief and reply brief Ford did not explain what relationship it had with the people to whom it gave financial assistance. Plaintiff responded that while the relationship is not technically an employer-employee relationship, it is "similar" to such a relationship because Ford has established criteria for who it allows to become a Ford dealer.

 After the parties filed their initial summary judgment briefs the court ordered further briefs from the parties addressing whether there is an employer-employee relationship between Ford and its dealership owners that receive Ford's financial assistance and people who are placed in it's training program. Under Ford's financial assistance program Ford invests a substantial portion of the required capital needed for a dealership along with the individual operator. The dealership is organized as a Delaware corporation. Ford and the individual operator are the stockholders of the dealership corporation. The individual operator has full authority to administer the affairs of the dealership, and uses the ...


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