The Supreme Court of New Hampshire Affirms Opinion for American Honda Motor Co.
James M. Campbell of Campbell Campbell Edwards & Conroy, Boston, Massachusetts represented American Honda Motor Co., Inc. in a Petition for Attorney's fees filed by the dealership Autofair Honda ("Autofair") against American Honda Motor Co., Inc. arising out of fees incurred by Autofair in a Protest it filed with the New Hampshire Motor Vehicle Industry Board. Autofair's Protest related to American Honda Motor Co., Inc. 's proposal to charge back certain claims for warranty work by the dealership which had already been paid for by American Honda Motor Co., Inc., following a warranty audit at the dealership. After oral argument, the New Hampshire Motor Vehicle Industry Board allowed American Honda Motor Co., Inc. to make certain charge backs, and disallowed a majority of the proposed charge backs which were still in dispute at the time of the Board hearing. The Board explicitly commended American Honda Motor Co., Inc.'s and Autofair's conduct in the warranty audit, and the positive changes which resulted from the audit.
Following the Board's Decision, Autofair brought this action for Attorney's fees, arguing that it was entitled to attorney's fees under RSA 357-C:12, as the Board had implicitly found that American Honda Motor Co., Inc. violated RSA 357-C in ruling in favor of Autofair. Autofair filed a motion for summary judgment on this basis. Honda filed a cross-motion for summary judgment, arguing that it had not violated RSA 357-C, as it had not actually charged back any amount, and pointed to the Board's Order for support that no violation was found by the Board. The Court granted summary judgment in favor of American Honda Motor Co., Inc., agreeing with American Honda Motor Co., Inc.'s position that no violation had occurred and that the Board had explicitly refused to find that American Honda Motor Co., Inc. had violated RSA 357-C. Autofair appealed the Court's decision. After the parties filed their initial briefing, the relevant statute was amended to include a definition for the term "charge back," which would, if applied retrospectively, alter the analysis of American Honda Motor Co., Inc.'s conduct as potentially violative of RSA 357-C. The parties submitted supplemental briefing, with Autofair arguing that the amended statute should apply to this case retrospectively, as the amendment was remedial only, and with American Honda Motor Co., Inc. arguing that the amendment affected the substantive rights of the parties, and therefore must only apply prospectively. After consideration of the amended statute, the New Hampshire Supreme Court determined that the amended statute affected the rights of the parties and therefore, could not be applied retrospectively. The Court then affirmed summary judgment in favor of American Honda Motor Co., Inc., agreeing with the Superior Court that there was no violation of the statute in affect at the time by American Honda Motor Co., Inc., and that the Board's decision did not find a violation by American Honda Motor Co., Inc.. View the full opinion.
On September 29, 2014 The Supreme Court of New Hampshire denied Autofair 1477 L.P. d/b/a Autofair Honda ("Autofair")'s Motion for Rehearing or Reconsideration, relating to the Court's earlier Opinion affirming the trial court's entry of summary judgment in favor of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. ("AHM"). The Court's denial of Autofair's motion confirms the Court's earlier decision that the amendments to RSA 357-C may apply prospectively only, and that AHM did not violate any portion of the statute which was in effect at the time of the disputed conduct. View Full Opinion