Cour de Cassation - Commercial, Financial and Economic Chambers Judgement 930. Case Fiat Auto France / Sofisud Partial Annulment Application for Review P 99-14.093
06 May 2002
Translated by:
Mr. Trevor Brown and Miss Ann Yazikov.
Professor B. S. Markesinis

THE COURT, made up according to article 131-6, paragraph 1, of the Code Relating to the Organisation of the Courts, at the public hearing of 12 March 2002 [………….]

Given that it appears from the judgement under attack that 1) on 27 September 1995, the company Fiat Auto France (Fiat Auto) terminated the contract which into which it had entered for an indefinite period with Sofisud, a dealer for the brand since 1984, observing the notice period of one year provided by the contract; 2) Sofisud claimed damages from Fiat Auto for the improper termination of the contract;

As regards the second ground, taken in its second limb:

In view of article 1134 of the Civil Code;

Given that to support this claim, the judgement holds that Fiat Auto, bound to carry out loyally its contractual undertakings, which obliged it not to diminish the chances of retargeting its business on the part of the dealer from which it intended to separate in the course of a personal restructuring policy, incurred liabilities towards Sofisud by negotiating and signing the take-over of the Boulogne-sur-Seine and Issy-les-Moulineaux branches and the extension of their exclusive territories with a third party, before dissolving the dealership contract, aware of the fact that it was thus harming Sofisud, as the latter’s position was weakened in negotiating the sell-off of its business to a buyer who, owing to the contract termination, was already sure of obtaining the wanted territory;

Given that by holding thus, whereas it had found that Fiat Auto had observed the notice period provided by the contract, and which was sufficient to enable the dealer to arrange his retargeting, the Court of Appeal has failed to draw legal consequences from its findings;

And regarding the same ground, taken in its fifth limb:

In view of articles 1134 and 1147 of the Civil Code;

Given that in order to hold it did, the Court of Appeal also held that Fiat Auto did not show that it had tried to repair its fault by assisting Sofisud in its aborted talks with the buyer, which would have been the only real way of compensating Sofisud within the one-year notice period which Fiat Auto observed;

Given that by holding as it did, whereas the principal is not bound by an obligation to assist a dealer’s retargeting of its business, the Court of Appeal has breached the aforementioned texts;

ON THESE GROUNDS, and without it being necessary to examine the other ground of appeal;

QUASHES AND ANNULS, except in that ……., the judgement rendered between the parties on 11 February 1999 by the Paris Court of Appeal; thus reverts both the matter and the parties involved to their respective positions prior to the aforementioned judgement, and, that justice may be done, sends them back to the Versailles Court of Appeal;[……]

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