Tesla notches legal victory in Missouri
Tesla Inc. can add Missouri to its win column as the electric automaker continues to wage its battle to sell vehicles directly in the U.S., state by state.
In a ruling released Tuesday, the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District reversed a decision from the Circuit Court of Cole County, Mo., to prohibit Tesla from renewing its dealership license. The three-judge panel ruled that the Missouri Automobile Dealers Association, the group that filed the case, did not have standing to sue the automaker.
"Consistent with every appellate court ruling in the country that has addressed standing in similar Tesla license challenges in other states, we reverse and remand with directions that the trial court dismiss [MADA]'s petition for lack of standing," the decision read.
Since it began selling its vehicles directly to customers in company-owned stores, Tesla has been fighting legal battles with state dealer groups over whether it is complying with local dealership franchise laws. One such case in Michigan has been brought to the federal level, with Tesla suing the state, claiming a violation of its constitutional rights.
Tesla operates two stores in Missouri, one in University City and one in Kansas City. The state's Department of Revenue granted the automaker licenses to sell its own vehicles for each store in 2013 and 2014.
MADA, and two of its members, Reuther Ford and Osage Industries, filed a lawsuit in January 2015 claiming Tesla did not meet the requirements to obtain a dealership license. The group also claimed damages as taxpayers, asserting that taxpayer funds were being wasted on such licenses. In August 2016, the circuitcourt granted MADA's petition to block the Department of Revenue from renewing or issuing new licenses to Tesla, which the automaker appealed.
The appeals court ruled that MADA did not have standing to file such a suit against the automaker and the Department of Revenue, finding it was brought to protect its own interests rather than those of the general public.
"We have been serving customers in Missouri for almost five years and have contributed to the state economy and jobs for Missourians -- something that will now continue," a Tesla spokeswoman said in a statement.
Doug Smith, president of MADA, told Automotive News the group is considering whether to take further legal action.
"They didn't say the argument was wrong, just that we didn't have standing to make the argument," he said. "I still feel the argument is strong."
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