[180 NJSuper Page 401] This matter came before the court in connection with defendant Shell Oil Company's motion for summary judgment. The motion will be granted.
This case involves a suit by plaintiff Vincent N. Ricco, trading as Vinnie's Allwood Shell, Inc., for damages upon failure of defendant Shell Oil Company (Shell) to renew Ricco's service station lease and for alleged tortious interference with Ricco's contractual agreement with Samuel Maniero to sell Ricco's station to Maniero.
Shell counterclaims for injunctive relief, damages and attorney's fees, alleging that plaintiff was not entitled to possession of premises beyond July 31, 1979; that Shell had the right to elect not to renew the service station lease and dealer agreement between it and plaintiff, and that Shell could not be compelled to extend the underlying base lease beyond July 31, 1979.
By lease agreement dated May 29, 1969 Richard Sisco and Wilma M. Geyh leased premises at 922 Bloomfield Avenue, at Market Street, Clifton, New Jersey, to Forbes Corporation "as and for an auto service station" for a term of ten years, beginning August 1, 1969, and terminating July 31, 1979, at $36,000.00 a year. Paragraph 8 granted to the lessee the right to assign or sublet the premises. On April 23, 1971 Forbes assigned to Shell all of its rights, title and interest under the lease agreement. On April 20, 1971, Forbes assigned to Shell a dealer agreement between Forbes and John Derkacs, at that time the dealer at the premises. The base lease was duly recorded, as was the assignment of lease.
Vincent N. Ricco purchased the business from Derkacs on January 14, 1974 for $15,000 plus $9,281.83 for equipment and inventory. Ricco thereafter entered into four consecutive service station leases, beginning on December 19, 1973, the last one dated August 18, 1978. On September 18, 1978 Shell informed Ricco by letter that the base lease would expire on July 31, 1979 and might not be extended. The letter also stated that if Shell should renew or extend the underlying lease, it would expect to
renew its service station lease and dealer agreement with plaintiff "if and as required by applicable law," provided no other grounds existed for nonrenewal. On May 3, 1979 Shell sent written notice to plaintiff that the underlying lease would, in fact, expire on July 31, 1979, and therefore the service station lease and agreement dated August 18, 1978 would expire by their terms on July 30, 1979 and would not be renewed. Plaintiff was requested to vacate the premises on or before July 31, 1979. Plaintiff refused to vacate, instituted suit on July 24, 1979 seeking injunctive relief against Shell and remained on the premises until January 1980, at which time he vacated as a result of eviction proceedings instituted by the owners of the fee.
Plaintiff seeks damages under the first and second counts of his complaint, arguing that the New Jersey Franchise Practices Act applies to the facts of this case and is, therefore, the applicable law; also, that defendant did not have "good cause" to make the election not to renew the franchise.
The Petroleum Marketing Practices Act, 15 U.S.C.A. § 2801 et seq. , enacted June 19, 1978, clearly and expressly preempts state franchise laws in the area of termination of franchises entered into or renewed on or after the date of enactment of the act; i.e. , any franchises without regard to the date on which the relevant franchise was entered into or renewed (15 U.S.C.A. § 2802) unless the state franchise law is the same as the federal law. The provisions of the two acts differ with regard to termination or nonrenewal of franchise relationships or the notification to be given with respect to same.
N.J.S.A. 56:10-5 reads in pertinent part:
Section 102 of the Petroleum Marketing Practices Act sets forth as one of its grounds for termination or ...