Man files suit against car dealership

February 09, 1994|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

A Virginia man has filed a $10 million lawsuit against an Ellicott City car dealership, alleging that the owner misled him into believing that he could buy the business.

Alan Szymkowiak of Fairfax Station is seeking the damages in a civil suit filed in Howard Circuit Court against Normandy Ford Inc. and its owner, Charles Grim of Ellicott City.

Mr. Szymkowiak charges Mr. Grim and his dealership on U.S. 40 with breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation in the suit, which was filed Jan. 21.

Mr. Szymkowiak contends in the suit that Mr. Grim repeatedly promised to put an oral agreement they made for the sale of Normandy in writing between late 1990 and September 1992 but never did.

Mr. Szymkowiak, 44, went to work as Normandy's general sales manager in November 1990 after selling his interests in three other automotive businesses, the suit says.

"He completely turned the dealership into a very profitable dealership," said Harvey Jacobs, a Rockville attorney for Mr. Szymkowiak.

Mark Breidenstein, vice president of Normandy, declined to comment on Mr. Szymkowiak's allegations. He said the company has not yet reviewed the suit.

According to the lawsuit, a Ford Motor Co. official informed Mr. Szymkowiak in October 1990 that Mr. Grim was interested in retiring and selling the dealership.

Mr. Szymkowiak then met with Mr. Grim, who said at the time that he was only looking for a new sales manager -- a position that the plaintiff did not want, the suit says.

Several days after the meeting, Mr. Grim contacted Mr. Szymkowiak to arrange another meeting to discuss the possible sale of the dealership, the suit says. Mr. Szymkowiak again told Mr. Grim that he would not leave his job for anything less than ownership of Normandy.

Mr. Grim and Mr. Szymkowiak worked out an oral agreement for the sale of Normandy, with the buyer going to work at the dealership, the suit says. Mr. Szymkowiak repeatedly asked for the agreement to be put in writing. Mr. Szymkowiak continued to manage Normandy, without an agreement, while Mr. Grim was in the hospital from November 1991 to April 1992 after suffering a severe stroke, the suit says.

In December 1991, Mr. Szymkowiak learned that Mr. Grim's wife, Pat Grim, owned 50 percent of the dealership, despite Mr. Grim's claims that he was the sole owner of the dealership, the suit says.

At a meeting in July 1992, Mr. Szymkowiak learned Mr. Grim's son-in-law was to begin working as Normandy's treasurer and secretary, despite Mr. Grim's previous assurances that no one in his family wanted to work at the business, the suit says.

During the July meeting, Mr. Szymkowiak learned that Mrs. Grim was not aware of her husband's plan to sell Normandy, the suit says. In September, Mrs. Grim informed Mr. Szymkowiak that she and her husband would not sell the dealership, despite the oral agreement.

Mr. Szymkowiak resigned from the dealership in November 1992, the suit says. He contends that he never received monthly and annual bonuses he was promised for 1992.

He now works as general manager at the Lane Hyundai and Honda dealership in College Park.

Mr. Szymkowiak has requested a jury trial for his lawsuit. The case has been assigned to Judge Dennis Sweeney, but no proceedings have been scheduled.

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