Texas dealer wins $136 million in Mercedes lawsuit
Jury accepts argument that factory wrongly foiled plan to move store
A Texas jury has awarded $136 million to a Mercedes dealer who alleged that Mercedes-Benz USA tricked him into believing he could move a store he spent $7 million to acquire to a more affluent community.
The complaint was filed in June 2011 by Renato Cardenas Sr., owner of Carduco Inc. and Cardenas Metroplex, a Mercedes dealership in Harlingen, Texas, in the southernmost tip of the state.
Cardenas won his lawsuit against Mercedes-Benz USA, a regional franchise manager and two field representatives in district court in Cameron County, Texas, on Feb. 15. Mercedes-Benz USA says it will appeal.
In 2009, Cardenas obtained a Mercedes franchise in Harlingen, expecting that he could move it to McAllen, 32 miles away, and build a new store, the lawsuit said. But he alleged that Mercedes-Benz USA secretly awarded an open point in the area to a competing dealer in McAllen.
In the complaint, Cardenas, 82, alleged that Mercedes officials throughout 2008 and 2009 encouraged Cardenas to buy the Harlingen dealership, and even visited proposed sites for the Cardenas' dealership in McAllen.
The suit contended that Mercedes-Benz took "active steps to conceal its intentions and deliberately provided false and misleading information in order to deceive Carduco."
The previous owners of the Harlingen dealership, as well as Carduco Inc. and Mercedes-Benz had "multiple discussions" about the acquisition for 14 months, court documents said.
"At every opportunity, [Cardenas] informed MBUSA that his intentions were to move the Harlingen-based dealership to McAllen upon MBUSA's approval of Carduco's dealership application," the suit said.
Mercedes-Benz did not disclose the open point had been given to Ron Heller, owner of Heller-Bird Motors of Mission, Texas, until after Cardenas closed on his purchase in June 2009, the suit contended.
Heller-Bird's store opened as Mercedes-Benz of San Juan in March 2011.
Mercedes-Benz USA said in a statement: "We disagree with the jury's findings that MBUSA made any misrepresentation to Cardenas Metroplex and that MBUSA or any of its employees did anything to warrant the verdict."
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