Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Fourth Division
STATE OF MISSOURI ex rel. MISSOURI AUTOMOBILE DEALERS ASSOCIATION, et al., Respondents,
MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE AND ITS DIRECTOR and TESLA MOTORS, INC., Appellants.
from the Circuit Court of Cole County, Missouri The Honorable
Daniel R. Green, Judge.
Mark D. Pfeiffer, Chief Judge, and James Edward Welsh and
Gary D. Witt, Judges.
D. Pfeiffer, Chief Judge.
Missouri Department of Revenue ("Department") and
Tesla Motors, Inc. ("Tesla") appeal from the
judgment entered by the Circuit Court of Cole County,
Missouri, granting summary judgment in favor of Missouri
Automobile Dealers Association ("MADA"), Reuther
Ford, Inc. ("Reuther Ford"), and Osage Industries,
Inc. ("Osage Industries") (collectively,
"Plaintiffs") on their petition for declaratory
judgment and writ of prohibition. The Department and Tesla
each assert that the trial court erred in recognizing the
Plaintiffs' standing and in finding that Tesla's
application did not satisfy the requirements for a dealer
license. 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 Plaintiffs'
petition for lack of standing.
and Procedural History
is a foreign corporation registered to do business in
Missouri. Tesla manufactures motor vehicles and holds a
manufacturer's license issued by the Department. Tesla
submitted an application to the Department for a new motor
vehicle dealer license. Tesla's application included a
document titled "Franchise Agreement Confirmation,
" which stated that Tesla Motors, Inc., as franchisor,
authorized Tesla Motors, Inc. to sell Tesla vehicles. In
April 2013, the Department issued to Tesla license number
D649 for a Tesla dealership in University City, Missouri. In
2014, the Department issued to Tesla license number D270 for
a Tesla dealership in Kansas City, Missouri. Thereafter, the
Department renewed these licenses.
the largest professional association of motor vehicle dealers
in Missouri. A MADA "franchise member" is a new
motor vehicle dealer that has entered into a franchise
agreement with a motor vehicle franchisor. Reuther Ford is a
new motor vehicle dealer licensed by the Department and is a
member of MADA. Osage Industries is a motor vehicle
manufacturer, licensed as a manufacturer by the Department,
and a member of MADA.
January 22, 2015, MADA, Reuther Ford, and Osage Industries
filed a petition for declaratory judgment and writ of
prohibition. The Plaintiffs asserted that Tesla failed to
meet the statutory requirements for obtaining a new motor
vehicle dealer license, citing Chapters 301 and 407 of the
Missouri Revised Statutes. Plaintiffs also alleged that they
were aggrieved as taxpayers because the Department had
expended public taxpayer funds with regard to license number
D649 and would continue to do so each year that Tesla applies
for license renewal.
February 11, 2015, Tesla moved to intervene as a
defendant/respondent. The trial court granted Tesla's
motion on February 27, 2015.
the Department and Tesla filed motions to dismiss for lack of
standing, asserting that Plaintiffs lacked standing under
Chapter 536 of the Missouri Administrative Procedures Act,
and Plaintiffs lacked standing as economic competitors of
Tesla and as Missouri taxpayers because they had no legally
protectable interest at stake in the Department's
decision to grant and renew Tesla's dealer licenses. The
Department and Tesla also asserted that MADA lacked
associational standing because none of its members had
standing to bring the action. The trial court denied both
motions without explanation.
Plaintiffs, the Department, and Tesla each filed motions for
August 31, 2016, the trial court granted Plaintiffs'
motion for summary judgment and again denied the
Department's and Tesla's motions for summary
judgment. In a footnote, the trial court denied the
Department's challenge to Plaintiffs' standing in its
motion for summary judgment with another cursory denial of
the standing challenge without explanation. The trial court
entered a permanent writ of prohibition prohibiting the
Department from: renewing Tesla's new motor vehicle
dealer licenses; issuing any new motor vehicle dealer license
to Tesla; and issuing or renewing any new motor vehicle
dealer license to any entity that is not a franchisee or does
not file a valid franchise agreement with the Department.
Department and Tesla each timely appealed, and this court
ordered the cases consolidated.