The Northeast Ohio Regional Tire Dealers Association (NORTDA) will dissolve its organization due to the financial strain of a pending lawsuit.
The suit was filed Dec. 9, 2003, in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas and names NORTDA as a third party added by defendant Don Mannarino, a Cleveland-based hypnotist.
Mr. Mannarino was hired by NORTDA as a performer for the group's 2001 Christmas party and, according to the suit, ``selected'' the plaintiff, Mary Federico, to be hypnotized.
The suit claims Mr. Mannarino ``negligently hypnotized the plaintiff and...did not remove the plaintiff from the hypnotic state.'' As a result, Ms. Federico was forced to seek medical attention for elevated blood pressure and a ``psychosomatic reaction to the hypnotism,'' the suit states.
Ms. Federico incurred medical expenses in an amount exceeding $300 but is seeking in excess of $25,000 in damages. An addendum to the suit stated that her medical treatment cost an estimated $700-$800.
Ms. Federico and her husband Jim own and operate Federico Tire Inc. in Painesville, Ohio. Mr. Federico-who is not a NORTDA member-sits on the board of directors of the Ohio Tire Dealers & Retreaders Asssociation (OTDRA), of which he also is a past president.
The Federicos and their attorney declined to comment to Tire Business on the pending case.
In the contract for Mr. Mannarino's services, NORTDA agreed as the event promoter to ``hold the performer harmless in claims involving personal injury or property damage arising out of said performance routines.''
Mr. Mannarino denied he was negligent in his performance and denied responsibility for any damages of the plaintiff. However, if he is found liable to the plaintiff, he is claiming full indemnification from NORTDA for damages, costs, attorney fees, interest and all other expenses owed, according to the suit.
The association, however, has no insurance to protect itself against liability, said Executive Secretary Joan Floyd.
After failed attempts to settle with the plaintiff in July, NORTDA will have a pre-trial telephone conference with the other parties Oct. 7. A jury trial is set for Jan. 10.
``It is with great sadness that I have to inform you that as an association NORTDA has disbanded,'' wrote NORTDA President Jeffrey Smith, in a Sept. 22 letter to association members. ``I want to assure you that your board of directors, Joan and Bill Floyd and myself have done everything possible to avoid this. However, we just had no choice left in the end...the cost of insurance to protect the association from (liability) risks exceeded NORTDA's potential resources.''
Mr. Floyd is the retired executive director of the OTDRA.
Mr. Smith told Tire Business that the group voted over the summer to dissolve, and NORTDA's board of directors met formally with its attorney Sept. 21 to go over documentation for the dissolution.
``It's not a point of right or wrong,'' Mr. Smith said of the suit. ``The point is, we can't afford to prove that we are right or wrong. We searched for different answers. We tried to negotiate a settlement with all the means we had available, and it just did not happen.''
Mrs. Floyd acknowledged that NORTDA also had declining attendance at meetings and events. She said 26 independent dealers and 14 suppliers are association members.
Mr. Smith, owner of Smitty's Car Service in Doylestown, Ohio, called the litigation and resulting disbanding of NORTDA ``a sad, sad thing.'' He said the group could not interact as an organization any time in the future.
``All we can do is be friends and work off the friendships and professional relationships we have built,'' Mr. Smith said.
NORTDA's history dates back to the 1950s when a group of independent tire dealers from the Akron area held meetings several times annually, then later incorporated as the Greater Akron Tire Dealers Association Inc. in 1967.
This association teamed up with the then-Cleveland Tire Dealers Association to form OTDRA in order to provide ``all independent tire dealers in Ohio a voice with state agencies and the legislature,'' according to Mrs. Floyd.
NORTDA later incorporated under its present name in 1973 when it expanded coverage to the Youngstown and New Philadelphia, Ohio, areas.