Food Service & Agriculture, Law, and Manufacturing

Court upholds $4.4M judgment

March 23, 2016
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Richard Kraus
Richard Kraus. Courtesy Foster Swift

The Michigan Court of Appeals recently affirmed a $4.4-million judgment in favor of a West Michigan farm equipment dealer.

A trial team from the law firm Foster Swift, which was headed by Richard Kraus and Josh Richardson, represented former Ionia County business McCormick International against Manitou North America, a Texas-based distributor of farm equipment made by France-based Manitou BF, in the case, according to Foster Swift last month.

Foster Swift said McCormick International had a contract to serve as the exclusive Michigan dealer of telescopic handlers made and sold by Manitou.

Despite McCormick’s “substantial investment” and “impressive sales” in the first year, Manitou decided to sell the telehandlers through other dealers in Michigan without telling McCormick.

Manitou also later agreed to make telehandlers that would be sold by Gehl Company and Gehl’s nationwide dealer network.

The arrangement between Manitou and Gehl provided that neither company would sell telehandlers to the other’s dealers, leaving McCormick “unable to meet its customers’ demands” for affordably priced telehandlers.

McCormick filed suit after it was forced to close its business.

A jury in Ionia County found that Manitou violated the Michigan Farm Utility Equipment Act and the Michigan Antitrust Reform Act, according to Foster Swift.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the jury’s decision that Manitou violated the two Michigan statutes by refusing to honor its dealer agreement and by excluding McCormick from being able to compete in the sale of telehandlers.

The court also affirmed most of the damages awarded by the jury, finding that only a relatively small percentage of McCormick’s claims could not be supported with documentary evidence.

Kraus and Richardson said they are pleased that “a most deserving client” has prevailed. 

Foster Swift operates three offices in West Michigan and six total statewide.

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