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N.H. Court Rules Against Deere, AGCO, New Holland and Case

Court challenge by manufacturers denied; New Hampshire's revised Dealer Bill of Rights law now covers construction, farm and forestry dealerships.

John Vogel, Editor, American Agriculturist

April 24, 2014

3 Min Read

Late last week, a New Hampshire Superior Court judge ruled in favor of New Hampshire equipment dealers and the state's Auto Dealers Association and against John Deere, AGCO, New Holland and Case. The court battle in the "Live free or Die" state was over the newly amended New Hampshire Dealer Bill of Rights law signed into law last year.

The (RSA 357-C) bill brought construction, farm and forest equipment dealers under the same umbrella as car, truck, motorcycle, snowmobile and off-road dealers. In September, the manufacturers immediately filed a lawsuit hoping to block key provisions of the law pertaining to farm equipment dealers.

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Last week's Superior Court decision struck down the manufacturers' claims that the law was unconstitutional and their call for a permanent injunction to keep the dealer bill of rights from taking effect. Manufacturers' claims centered on 10 issues:

• Not permitted to change a dealer's dealership area without good cause.

• Not permitted to compete with a dealer or to authorize others to compete or to add or relocate dealerships without good cause.

• No discretion to require certain equity or capital levels by dealers in the dealerships.

• No rejection of fulfilling orders for certain reasons,

• They couldn't immediately terminate, cancel or non-renew a dealership agreement in certain circumstances, or for good cause without approval of New Hampshire's Motor Vehicle Industry Board.

• Arbitration prohibited for dispute resolution under some plaintiffs' dealership agreements.

• No discretion given to determine warranty service reimbursement amounts.

• No discretion to limit line/make types of equipment a dealer may purchase.

• No discretion to limit a dealer's sale of competing lines of equipment.

• Plaintiffs' ability to own a dealership is restricted.

"The court was swayed by the testimony of farmers and equipment dealers showing that the manufacturers' actions have hurt consumers and producers," explains Pete McNamara, president of the New Hampshire Auto Dealers Association. "This is a win for consumers and small businesses.  John Deere's constant strategy of intimidation failed to sway the court."

In 1999, New Hampshire had 41 member dealers of the Northeast Equipment Dealers Association. "Today, they only have nine," says Tim Wentz, field director for NEDA.

"The move by manufacturers to fewer mega-dealers is detrimental to agriculture and the economy of rural New Hampshire," he argues. "A mega-dealer 100 miles away won't provide the level of support of a local dealer. Even if they would, the distance is too great to be of use."

Prospects for appeal?
While this courtroom debate may be over, McNamara concedes that the legal challenge may not be over. "Based upon John Deere's actions here and in other states, I think an appeal is likely.

"The only drawback is that the opinion is so strongly worded and on firm footing, it's more probable that the New Hampshire Supreme Court will rule against them. The last thing Deere would want to see is a High Court rule against them; whereas a ruling from the trial court is less likely to be used against them in other states.

"We should know in the next few weeks. They'll likely first ask for the judge to reconsider his ruling. This will likely be denied as most reconsideration's are. Then Deere will have approximately 30 days to file its intent to appeal.

About the Author(s)

John Vogel

Editor, American Agriculturist

For more than 38 years, John Vogel has been a Farm Progress editor writing for farmers from the Dakota prairies to the Eastern shores. Since 1985, he's been the editor of American Agriculturist – successor of three other Northeast magazines.

Raised on a grain and beef farm, he double-majored in Animal Science and Ag Journalism at Iowa State. His passion for helping farmers and farm management skills led to his family farm's first 209-bushel corn yield average in 1989.

John's personal and professional missions are an integral part of American Agriculturist's mission: To anticipate and explore tomorrow's farming needs and encourage positive change to keep family, profit and pride in farming.

John co-founded Pennsylvania Farm Link, a non-profit dedicated to helping young farmers start farming. It was responsible for creating three innovative state-supported low-interest loan programs and two "Farms for the Future" conferences.

His publications have received countless awards, including the 2000 Folio "Gold Award" for editorial excellence, the 2001 and 2008 National Association of Ag Journalists' Mackiewicz Award, several American Agricultural Editors' "Oscars" plus many ag media awards from the New York State Agricultural Society.

Vogel is a three-time winner of the Northeast Farm Communicators' Farm Communicator of the Year award. He's a National 4-H Foundation Distinguished Alumni and an honorary member of Alpha Zeta, and board member of Christian Farmers Outreach.

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