PITTSBURGH-In 1989, Jack Emery was on top of the world. He had seen his dealership grow from one to six outlets, thanks, in part to his hard work and an exclusive Uniroyal Goodrich Tire Co. distribution agreement.
It was the year Emery Car Care Center would win the nation's top distributor award from Uniroyal.
It was also the year, he said, that things would turn sour.
In a lawsuit filed Nov. 27, 1995, Mr. Emery claimed Uniroyal Goodrich encouraged an Ohio wholesaler to sell tires in the western Pennsylvania region Mr. Emery said was his exclusive territory.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, alleged price discrimination, breach of contract and interference with a contract and seeks an amount no less than $4.20 million and treble damages.
The defendants, Terry's Tire Town Inc., T & Z Tire Wholesalers Inc., T.P.T. Inc., all of Alliance, Ohio, and Uniroyal Goodrich, have filed motions to dismiss the case.
``Uniroyal Goodrich has provided financial assistance to Mr. Emery in the past, and we are disappointed that he has chosen to take such (legal) action,'' a Uniroyal Goodrich spokesman said.
Emery Car Care, a retail/wholesale dealership, which had six outlets at one time in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area, entered into a series of Uniroyal distribution contracts ``whereby Emery Car Care was the exclusive wholesale distributor of Uniroyal tires in the Western Pennsylvania area (Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Clarion, Crawford, Erie, Lawrence, Mercer and Venango counties),'' the suit said.
At the same time, Terry's Tire Town on its own or through T & Z Tire, both owned by Terry Tollerton, held similar agreements for part of eastern Ohio, the suit said.
In August 1989, Anthony Pollock became the Uniroyal representative responsible for Emery Car Care and Terry's Tire Town.
``At some time beginning in 1989 and continuing through March 1991, Mr. Pollock engaged in a practice whereby he solicited established customers of Emery Car Care within the Emery Car Care protected trade area and diverted business to Terry's Tire Town and/or T & Z,'' the suit alleged. This is known as ``cross shipping.''
``Despite its expressed intolerance for the practice of cross shipping, Uniroyal, however, was not only aware of the cross shipping by Terry's Tire Town and/or T & Z, but acting through Pollock, it encouraged the cross shipping practice . . . ,'' which eventually forced Emery Car Care out of business due to lost sales, the suit alleged.
Mr. Emery claimed his wholesale tire sales fell more than 30 percent from 1989 to 1990. The suit also alleged Uniroyal sold tires to Terry's Tire Town at prices lower than those it offered to Emery Car Care.
In Emery Car Care's 1991 renewal agreement, Mr. Emery was required to allow T & Z to sell Uniroyal tires in his trade area, the suit stated.
In November 1992, Mr. Emery sold his business to T.P.T. The suit alleged Mr. Tollerton and Mr. Pollock own 51 and 49 percent of T.P.T, respectively.
A judge is expected to rule on the motions to dismiss in a month or two, said C.J. Manoli, an attorney representing Mr. Tollerton.
``We believe that the suit is without merit,'' he added.
Currently, Mr. Emery operates a single-location retail dealership, Royal Care Tire and Automotive Service Center Inc. in Bridgeville, Pa., just outside of Pittsburgh.
But he said his troubles continue, and even his attorney expects at best a lengthy court battle.
``I think the road ahead is going to be very difficult for us,'' his attorney, Michael Baggett, said.