AutoNation summary judgment win affirmed, justices find no evidence supporting ‘implied-in-fact’ contract

By David Yates | Dec 12, 2017

HOUSTON - A well-known car dealership recently had its summary judgment win affirmed by the 14th Court of Appeals in a breach of contract lawsuit.

The ruling stems from a suit brought by Lindsey Construction against AutoNation Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Spring, which alleged the dealership violated an “implied-in-fact” contract by refusing to take a truck on trade-in.

Background

Court records show Lindsey Construction was leasing three trucks from Enterprise Fleet Management. One of the truck’s engines began making a noise and was brought to AutoNation.  

AutoNation informed Lindsey Construction that the truck, a Ram 7007, had a major internal failure and that the engine needed to be rebuilt or replaced. Curtis Lindsey, the president of Lindsey Construction, told AutoNation that he did not want any repairs made and that he would pick up the truck as it was, with the engine disassembled.

In his suit, Lindsey claims that when he arrived to retrieve the Ram 7007, an

AutoNation sales representative told him that he should trade-in the truck for “a newer model from AutoNation” and that “Enterprise should handle the financing because Enterprise could ‘get a better deal.’”

According to Lindsey, the leases on the other two trucks were about to expire, so he brought them to AutoNation for appraisal, which the dealership completed.

AutoNation presented Lindsey with a separate appraisal report for each truck, with the Ram 7007 appraised at $13,500 without any mention as to whether the value was based on the current condition or whether the value was premised on the truck having a rebuilt or replaced engine.

In the reports, AutoNation did not state it would buy any of the trucks, court records state.

Lindsey Construction decided to trade-in the three vehicles for newer models, terminating the leases from Enterprise and then leasing three new trucks from Enterprise, which were bought from the AutoNation.

Several months later, Lindsey Construction received a letter from Enterprise stating that AutoNation had not purchased the Ram 7007 from Enterprise and that if it did not buy the truck, Lindsey Construction would have to pay more for the lease of the truck that replaced the Ram 7007.

Despite Lindsey Construction’s demand that the AutoNation Parties buy the Ram 7007 from Enterprise for $13,500, AutoNation refused to do so.

Lindsey Construction then sued AutoNation, asserting claims for breach of contract, violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act, negligent misrepresentation, and tortious interference with an existing contract.

In turn, AutoNation filed a motion for summary-judgment, which was granted by the trial court, court records show.

On appeal, Lindsey Construction asserts that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment because an adequate time for discovery had not yet passed.

Justices on the 14th Court of Appeals disagreed, affirming the trial court’s ruling on Dec. 7, court records show.

“The trial court did not abuse its discretion in impliedly determining that an adequate time for discovery had passed when the trial court granted summary judgment,” the opinion states, authored by Chief Justice Kem Thompson Frost.

“The trial court did not err in granting summary judgment as to the breach-of-contract claims on the ground that there is no evidence that the parties mutually assented to the terms of the alleged implied-in-fact contract. Nor did the trial court err in granting a no-evidence summary judgment as to Lindsey

Construction’s claims based on alleged DTPA violations.

“Lindsey Construction has not shown that the trial court erred in granting a no-evidence summary judgment as to the negligent-misrepresentation claims or as to the claims for tortious interference with an existing contract.”

Lindsey Construction is represented by Andrew Green and Veronica Montemayor, attorneys for the Houston law firm McCathern PLLC.

AutoNation is represented by George Kurisky Jr. and Mark Bankston, attorneys for the Houston law firm Johnson, DeLuca, Kurisky & Gould.

Appeals Case No. 14-16-00190-CV

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