Dealers and Franchises

Milwaukee Dealers and Franchises Lawyer

Under the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law (WFDL), a “grantor” of a dealership cannot cancel, fail to renew or substantially change the competitive circumstances of a dealership agreement without good cause. In many cases, disputes will arise over these issues, and an experienced Wisconsin dealers and franchises lawyer will be needed to show whether the grantor had “good cause” or provided required legally sufficient notice.

Attorney Robert Corris has obtained temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions for dealers in a number of industries, and he is well-versed in WFDL-based actions.

To learn more, call the Corris Law Office today at (414) 272-8000, send us a fax (414) 755-7050 or an e-mail (rcorris@corrislaw.com), or use our convenient contact form. We represent business law clients throughout Southeastern Wisconsin, including Milwaukee, Hartland, Waukesha and surrounding areas. We pledge prompt and personal attention to your case and look forward to working with you to solve your dealer and franchise dispute.

Experience on Your Side

Attorney Robert Corris actively participated in the prosecution of a class action antitrust case on behalf of gasoline dealers that directly influenced the adoption of the WFDL (even though Congressional passage of the Petroleum Practices Marketing Act later superseded the application of the WFDL to gasoline dealers). His work on the case included taking depositions, arguing the class certification motion and moving for a series of temporary restraining orders, He has obtained temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions for dealers in a number of industries as well.

Typically, if a dealer who is being terminated can establish entitlement to preliminary injunctive relief by showing a likelihood of success, the case will often settle soon thereafter. When the grantor has good cause to terminate or change competitive circumstances but has failed to provide statutory notice and the required time to cure, a dealer has to be vigilant to cure the deficiency, or the grantor will re-initiate termination proceedings

The WFDL statute defines a dealer as a grantee who is situated in Wisconsin and a dealership as “a contract or agreement, either expressed or implied, whether oral or written, between two or more persons, by which a person is granted the right to sell or distribute goods or services, or use a trade name, trademark, service mark, logotype, advertising or other commercial symbol, in which there is a community of interest in the business of offering, selling or distributing goods or services at wholesale, retail, by lease, agreement or otherwise.”

The WFDL has proven unpopular with some courts, especially the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears appeals from the Wisconsin federal trial courts in Milwaukee and Madison.  While the Wisconsin Supreme Court has adopted a 10-factor test for determining whether a community of interest exists,  the Seventh Circuit distilled that 10-factor test into two questions: (1) the percentage of revenues and profits the alleged dealer derives from the grantor and (2) the amount of time and money an alleged dealer has sunk into the relationship.

The Seventh Circuit court has stated that “The ultimate question is whether the grantor has the alleged dealer ‘over a barrel’ – that is, whether it has such great economic power over the dealer that the dealer will be unable to negotiate with the grantor or comparison-shop with other grantors.” In 2010, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals rejected the Seventh Circuit standard as being inconsistent with the  test annunicated by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Many manufacturers are located out of state. Since a dealer must be situated in this state, WFDL lawsuits often are between citizens of different states, and the manufacturer typically can meet jurisdictional requirements for removal to the federal court system. Grantors can be expected to continue to remove WFDL lawsuits to federal court, and the Seventh Circuit can be expected to decide cases consistent with its dislike of the statute.

Contact the Corris Law Office Today

Attorney Robert Corris is an experienced business litigator as well as a speaker and author on a variety of business law topics, including Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law disputes. He is ready to discuss solutions to your legal problems today.

The Corris Law Office serves dealership and franchise clients throughout Southeastern Wisconsin, including Milwaukee, Hartland, Waukesha and surrounding areas. To learn more, call us at (414) 272-8000, send us a fax (414) 755-7050 or an e-mail (rcorris@corrislaw.com), or use our convenient contact form. We pledge prompt and personal attention to your case and look forward to working with you.