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Jury Awards $26 Million To Black Car Dealer In Lawsuit Against General Motors

June 8, 1995

TUSKEGEE, Ala. (AP) _ A jury awarded $26 million to a black car dealer who accused General Motors Corp. of treating him unfairly and causing his business to collapse.

The Macon County jury awarded $6 million to Charles Bell to compensate him for his losses and $20 million in the form of punitive damages against the Detroit automaker and its GMAC subsidiary.

The verdict was returned Wednesday in the second trial of Bell’s suit against GM. The first case ended with a mistrial in September.

General Motors spokesman Ed Lechtzin said today that the company would take every step possible to have the verdict and damages set aside. The company contended that Bell was to blame for his dealership’s problems.

Bell claimed that he and his wife, Shirley, were prospering with a variety of businesses in North Carolina when GM enticed them to open the car dealership in 1979 in rural Tuskegee, Ala.

Because of his minority status, Bell claimed GM treated him differently from the way it did white dealers in Montgomery, about 40 miles west of Tuskegee, causing him financial difficulties.

His suit alleged that GM misrepresented facts and withheld business information from him, leading to debts and the eventual collapse of his dealership two years ago.

Attorneys for Bell dropped claims alleging GM violated the Alabama Motor Vehicle Franchise Act and conspired against him, and also dropped Jerry Edrington, GMAC control branch manager, and his assistant, Gregory Bemister, as co-defendants.

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