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Feb 14, 3:20 PM EST

Supreme Court lets stand ruling denying Chrysler dealership


HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- The Montana Supreme Court is letting stand a decision that denies a Billings auto dealership the right to sell Chrysler and Jeep vehicles based on the protest of a competitor.

Rimrock Auto Group lost its Chrysler dealership along with more than 700 others when the company filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

Months later, the new Chrysler company awarded a Chrysler-Jeep franchise to Lithia Motors Inc. in Billings. Lithia already sold Dodge vehicles.

Steve Zabawa and his Rimrock dealership challenged the loss of its franchise through arbitration in 2010 and won, receiving a letter of intent allowing it to establish a Chrysler-Jeep franchise in Billings. However, state law allowed Lithia to oppose it.

In 2012, a state hearings examiner didn't find good cause to re-establish Rimrock as a Chrysler-Jeep franchise in Billings. The new Chrysler company would have had to prove the Lithia franchise was underperforming or not fulfilling its obligations.

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a state judge was correct in deciding there weren't grounds to second-guess the hearings examiner.

"I will talk to my attorneys and see what the next round is," Zabawa said Wednesday.

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