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Maine Motor Vehicle Franchise Board
Hearing
April 11, 2012

The Maine Motor Vehicle Franchise Board held a Hearing on April 11, 2012, at 9 am in the Executive Conference room at the Maine Department of Motor Vehicles.
The Franchise Board met to consider two claims that Darling’s had originally filed against Ford as part of an Amended Complaint of February 24, 2005. The Board had twice dismissed the two claims and had twice been reversed on appeal. Following the second reversal and remand to the Board, the parties tried but were unable to resolve the matters and the Chairman held a Conference of Counsel on February 13, 2012. At that Conference and the Hearing, Judy Metcalf, Esq., represented Darling’s and Dan Rosenthal, Esq., represented Ford  At the April 11, 2012, Hearing the Franchise Board was comprised of Dealer Members Charles Gaunce, William Sowles, and Adam Lee along with Public Member William Dowling, Manufacturer Member John Knight and Chairman John McCurry. Russell McLellan, a recently appointed Manufacturer Member, attended but took no part in the deliberations and did not vote. Darling’s presented two witnesses, George Delle Chiaie, Service Director and Warranty Manager, and John Darling.      

Several of the exhibits which had been admitted at earlier proceedings were supplied to the Board as Exhibits 1, 33, 37, 47, and 67. In addition, new Exhibits 131-157 were offered along with 136A, 144A, 156A, 157A, and 158. Exhibits 131-136, 136A, 137-144, 144A, 145, 146, 148, 149, 153-157, and 157A were admitted without objection. Exhibits 150-152 were admitted over Ford’s objection. Exhibit 158 was admitted over Darling’s objection.

Each party offered a single submission as part of its closing argument. Darling’s offered a December 29, 1998, Order Concerning Scope of Reference signed by Chief United States District Judge Hornby. Ford offered a copy of its Closing Statement to the Board on Counts IV and V, dated October 20, 2005. Attached to that Closing Statement was Ford’s December 18, 2006, Brief to the Superior Court and a compendium of decisions and orders issued by courts and administrative bodies between 1991 and 2010, in litigation involving Darling’s and Ford. These two submissions remain in the record as Board Exhibits 1 and 2.

Count IV of Darling’s Complaint alleged that Ford violated 10 M.R.S.A. §§ 1174(1) and 1176 in its handling of warranty Repairs Orders numbered 2002-219021 and 2002-236992. Darling’s sought an assessment of civil penalties against Ford pursuant to 10 M.R.S.A. § 1188(3), and an award of costs and attorney’s fees pursuant to 10 M.R.S.A. §§ 1173 and 1188(4), the Franchise Law.

Following the testimony of the witnesses and the arguments of counsel, the Board considered the evidence and found that Ford had violated the law in its handling of Repair Order 236992, the recall repair. Board Members Charles Gaunce, William Sowles, Adam Lee and William Dowling voted in favor of that finding, and John Knight abstained. The Board voted unanimously to impose on Ford a $ 1, 000.00 civil penalty.

The Board then considered Ford’s handling of Repair Order 219021, a vehicle which leaked badly. It again found that Ford had violated the law. Board Members Charles Gaunce, William Sowles, Adam Lee and William Dowling voted in favor of that finding, and John Knight abstained. The Board then voted to impose a $ 10, 000.00 civil penalty, with Board Members Charles Gaunce, William Sowles and Adam Lee voting in favor, and John Knight and William Dowling voting against that level of penalty. 

The hearing adjourned at 3:41 in the afternoon.