In most cases, a dealer protesting an automaker's proposal for a new dealership nearby is stuck with the legal costs if the automaker drops the case.
But not so in an Alabama lawsuit.
The Circuit Court of Jefferson County in Bessemer, Ala., ordered DaimlerChrysler in March to reimburse dealer Susan Schein for $73,000 she spent in legal fees to challenge the automaker's plan to add a Dodge dealership near Susan Schein Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge Inc. in Pelham, Ala.
DaimlerChrysler backed out of the 14-month-old battle after Schein learned the site for the proposed store, in Hoover, Ala., was not zoned to allow a car dealership, according to legal documents.
Schein petitioned the court for legal costs, contending DaimlerChrysler should have had a properly zoned site before proposing a dealership. Schein also argued that the automaker should pay the bill because it could not prove it had a legitimate reason for adding a dealer.
The Alabama franchise law requires automakers to show good cause for establishing dealerships, she pointed out in court documents.
The court granted Schein's request March 18.
"DaimlerChrysler didn't do its homework," said Dan Myers, Schein's lawyer from Tallahassee, Fla. "A manufacturer cannot come to the table without proving the point (new dealership) is needed and that it has the land." Myers said he intends to use the Schein case to collect legal costs for dealers in similar cases.
DaimlerChrysler's lawyers would not comment on the case.