Butnaru v. Ford Motor Co

In Butnaru v. Ford Motor Co., 44 Tex. (2001), the supreme court decided that the Butnarus' tortious-interference and declaratory-judgment claims raise motor vehicle commission code construction claims that fall outside the Board's exclusive jurisdiction. Butnaru, 84 S.W.3d at 207. Nothing in the motor vehicle commission code indicates that the legislature intended to replace prospective transferees' common-law remedies in the code. Id. at 208. Thus, the Butnarus, as prospective transferees, do not need to exhaust administrative remedies before bringing suit in court. Id. However, the supreme court also determined that the Butnarus' claims raise issues within the Board's special competence and expertise. Id. In particular, the legislature authorized the Board to resolve disputes between a manufacturer and a dealer when a dealer alleges that a manufacturer unreasonably withheld consent to transfer a dealership. Id.; see also Tex. Occ. Code Ann. 2301.360. Although the code does not establish any procedure for resolving the claim of a prospective transferee under the same scenario, the State has an interest in the uniform interpretation of the code provision concerning dealership transfers. Butnaru, 84 S.W.3d at 208-09. Thus, the Board has primary, rather than exclusive, jurisdiction. Id. Accordingly, the supreme court ordered that "the trial court should abate the claims pending the Board having an opportunity to exercise its primary jurisdiction to determine, at least in the first instance, whether a right of first refusal violates the Code." Id. at 209. In other words, "the primary jurisdiction doctrine requires the trial court to abate the claims pending the Board having a reasonable opportunity to determine whether a right of first refusal violates the Code." Id.