Defendant moves for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's claims under the Franchise Practices Act, (N.J.S.A. 56:10-1 et seq.).
Plaintiff, which operates a carpet and upholstery cleaning business, entered into an agreement with the defendant, Associated Dry Goods Corporation, doing business as Hahne's Department Store (Hahne's), whereby the defendant granted the plaintiff a license to operate an in-home carpet and upholstery cleaning service under the Hahne's name.
The preamble to the agreement states:
WHEREAS, the Licensee desires to operate an in-home carpet and upholstery cleaning service under Hahne's name and Hahne's is willing to license the steam cleaning service on the terms and conditions set forth herein.
Plaintiff cleans carpets and upholstery at customers' homes. It solicits customers, conducts the financial aspects of its business and performs some cleaning at a particular location. This location also serves as a terminal for its vehicles. Plaintiff does concede that the great bulk of the work, if not almost all of the work, is performed at the customers' homes or places of business. The agreement makes no reference to the plaintiff's place of business.
Defendant has ceased operations of its business and plaintiff has brought suit contending that the cessation of operations amounts to a termination of the franchise agreement.
Defendant contends that the relationship between the parties is not one of franchisor/franchisee and that even if it were, it is one not encompassed by the Franchise Practices Act. Plaintiff responds that it is a franchisee and is protected under the Act.
The statute, N.J.S.A. 56:10-3(a), defines a franchise as:
There is no doubt that the plaintiff was a franchisee. The agreement obviously demonstrates a community of interest between the parties and clearly states that plaintiff is granted a license to use the defendant's name.
The specific question in this case, therefore, is not whether the plaintiff is a franchisee. It clearly is. The question is whether this franchise is one which falls ...