United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
February 25, 2004.
JEFF CONNERS, Plaintiff,
FORD MOTOR COMPANY, Defendant
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES MORAN, Senior District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, Jeff Conners, brought this action against defendant, Ford
Motor Company (Ford), alleging racial discrimination in violation of
42 U.S.C. § 1981. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment which
was granted after plaintiff failed to respond. 2003 WL 22159222 (N.D.
III. Sept 17, 2003). On September 24, 2003, plaintiff filed a motion for
leave to file a late response, which we granted, vacating the earlier
ruling. After full briefing by the parties, defendant's motion for
summary judgment is again granted.
The court's function in ruling on a motion for summary judgment is
merely to determine if there is a genuine issue of material fact for
trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). Only if
the evidence on file shows that no such issue exists, and that the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, will the court grant the
motion. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Bennett V.
Roberts, 295 F.3d 687, 694 (7* Cir. 2002).
Ford has a Dealer Development (DD) program, whereby it assists a
dealership operator in purchasing a dealership by providing the capital
and allowing the operator to buy out
Ford's Interest through dealership profits. Plaintiff alleges that he
contacted Ford about participating in this program, but when he asked for
an application he was told he could not participate because he is not
black. Plaintiff suggests, in effect, that the DD program is an illegal
private affirmative action program. We need not get into that, however,
because the program in fact is not confined to minorities, although they
primarily benefit from it, see Johnson v. Transportation Agency, Santa
Clara, Califonia, 480 U.S. 616, 638-39 (1987); United Steelworkers of
America, AFL-CIO v. Weber, 443 U.S. 193, 208 (1979), and plaintiff does
not provide the kind of record necessary to support such a suggestion.
Rather, his claim is intentional discrimination.
To establish a prima facie case for intentional discrimination under
section 1981, plaintiff must show that (1) he is the member of a
protected class; (2) he applied and was qualified to enter into an
available contractual relationship; (3) he was rejected; and (4) the
contract was awarded to an individual of a different race. Falkner Motor
Sales, Inc. v. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. Inc., 1996 WL 137642, *7 (N.D.
Ill 19961. citing McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802
Plaintiff's claim may well fail because he never actually applied for
the DD program. Taking his story as true, he asked a lower-level Ford
employee for an application, was told that he could not get one (which
the employee denies), but never followed up with a request to a person
with managerial authority. This may not amount to an improper
interference with his section 1981 right to contract Nor is there any
evidence that defendant had any interest in including Fox Lake Ford as a
DD program dealer; indeed, the evidence is to the contrary. See Morris v.
Office Max. Inc., 89 F.3d 411, 414-15 (7th Cir. 1996) ("[a] claim for
the right to make and enforce a contract must allege the actual loss of a
contract interest, not merely the possible loss of future contract
opportunities.") Plaintiff argues that a "Prospective Dealer Application"
he submitted in August or September 1998 should qualify as an application
for the DD program because he referred Ford to this application and It
contained all relevant Information. Any alleged misconduct by Ford,
however, took place over a year after the filing of that document and
there is no indication that plaintiff was considering the DD program when
he filed it
Even if we consider that document as an application for the DD
program, plaintiff would not qualify. Among other things, Ford requires
that any participant have a certain amount of available capital in this
case, about $136,000. Plaintiff admits that he did not have this money
available but claims that his mother promised him a gift of $150,000 in
1999. Even accepting this claim (which plaintiff did not make until he
responded to this motion and which is inconsistent with his prior
testimony) as true, plaintiffs debt (which he admits was approximately
$92,000) ensured that he would not have enough unencumbered capital to
participate in the program.
For the foregoing reasons, defendant's motion for summary judgment is
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