TAMPA — The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida largely denied Kubota’s attempt to quickly end a lawsuit brought by a dealer who accused the tractor and heavy equipment maker of interfering in their relationship with a customer.
Gulf Coast Turf and Tractor sued Kubota, alleging they were in violation of the state’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act. It also accused the Japanese company of tortious interference with advantageous business relationships.
The court order denied in part and granted in part the motion by the defendants, Kubota.
“The motion is granted to the extent that Gulf Coast cannot [use] future lost profits in connection with its FDUTPA claim; otherwise the motion is denied,” Judge Susan C Bucklew wrote in the court order.
According to the court record, the dispute is over Kubota’s dealer practices. The company has agreements with different authorized dealers around the country who distribute and sell their agricultural, construction and outdoor power equipment.
Gulf Coast, based in Florida, was one of those companies. Kubota’s practice is to permit these dealers to sell to customers within their geographical areas. Bigger, national clients will place orders with Kubota itself, and they will then designate a delivery dealer that can make a commission off of these orders.
Gulf Coast wanted to be the delivery dealer for Hertz Equipment Rental Corporation (Herc). In an effort to secure that status, “Gulf Coast offered to help Herc obtain the software needed to diagnose problems with their Kubota equipment.”
However, Gulf Coast did not have the permission to share the software and, according to Bucklew, it was not clear if they sought and obtained permission from Kubota.
Yet, it is claimed that after Gulf Coast obtained the software for Herc, that a customer did not want Gulf Coast to be the delivery dealer.
“The evidence on this issue is hearsay; there is an email chain from Herc, as well as testimony by Kubota employees regarding what Herc allegedly told them,” the court order stated.
As a result, Gulf Coast alleges Kubota “unfairly interfered with its attempt to cultivate a delivery dealer relationship with Herc.”