The opinion of the court was delivered by: IRENAS
Plaintiff franchisee instituted this action on December 18, 1996 alleging that defendants destroyed his franchise relationship in contravention of the Petroleum Marketing Practices Act ("PMPA"), 15 U.S.C. §§ 2801-06, the Robinson-Patman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 13, and New Jersey tort law. Defendants now move this Court to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Because Mobil's transfer of its franchise rights to Ross Fogg is valid under the PMPA, because plaintiff's complaint fails to state a prima facie case under the Robinson-Patman Act, and because this Court lacks supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's common-law tort claim, the Court will grant defendants' motion to dismiss.
Sometime in 1995, plaintiff first learned that Mobil intended to sell its interests in several gasoline filling stations, including his. See id. P 10. Plaintiff alleges that he conveyed to Mobil his desire to purchase his station but that Mobil ignored him. See id. P 11. On December 21, 1995, Mobil transferred its franchise rights to Ross Fogg and, according to plaintiff, "illegally severed and nonrenewed all ties" to plaintiff. Id. P 12.
Following the transfer, Ross Fogg has continued to lease the station to plaintiff, license Mobil's trademark to him, and provide him with Mobil-branded gasoline. See id. P 12. Plaintiff contends, however, that Ross Fogg now charges him more for gasoline than Mobil had charged previously, and that Ross Fogg provides him with fewer services than Mobil had provided previously. See id. P 13.
On December 18, 1996, plaintiff filed the instant complaint, asserting ten separate causes of action against Mobil and Ross Fogg. Most of these allege that Mobil's assignment to Ross Fogg violated the PMPA. Plaintiff also alleges violation of the Robinson-Patman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 13, and New Jersey tort law. See id. P 35 (alleging tortious interference with plaintiff's contractual rights).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a court may dismiss a complaint "for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court will accept the allegations of the complaint as true. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 40 L. Ed. 2d 90, 94 S. Ct. 1683 (1974). Dismissal of claims under Rule 12(b)(6) should be granted only if "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957). Although the court must assume as true all facts alleged, "it is not . . . proper to assume that the [plaintiff] can prove any facts that it has not alleged." Associated General Contractors of Calif., Inc., v. California State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526, 74 L. Ed. 2d 723, 103 S. Ct. 897 (1983). Finally, when "confronted with [a 12(b)(6)] motion, the court must review the allegations of fact contained in the complaint: for this purpose the court does not consider conclusory recitations of law." Pennsylvania ex rel. Zimmerman v. PepsiCo. Inc., 836 F.2d 173, 179 (3d Cir. 1988) (emphasis added).
The PMPA regulates the relationship between motor fuel distributors, principally oil refiners, and their franchisees, principally retail gas station operators. Prior to the passage of the PMPA, evidence suggested that "distributors had been using the threat of termination or nonrenewal to compel franchising policies . . . [and] to gain an unfair advantage in contract disputes." Slatky v. Amoco Oil Co., 830 F.2d 476, 478 (3d Cir. 1987) (in banc). Accordingly, in passing the PMPA, Congress sought to protect "franchisees from arbitrary or discriminatory termination or nonrenewal," and adopted minimum standards governing the termination or nonrenewal of a petroleum franchise. S. Rep. No. 95-731 at 15, reprinted in 1978 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 873, 874. Consistent with this overriding purpose of protecting franchisees, courts have recognized the remedial nature of the PMPA and construed its terms liberally. See Beachler v. Amoco Oil Co., 112 F.3d 902, 904 (7th Cir. 1997); Hilo v. Exxon Corp., 997 F.2d 641, 643 (9th Cir. 1993); Chestnut Hill Gulf, Inc. v. Cumberland Farms, Inc., 940 F.2d 744, 750 (1st Cir. 1991); May-Som Gulf, Inc. v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., 869 F.2d 917, 921 (6th Cir. 1989).
Because the PMPA also serves to diminish franchisors' property rights, however, courts have taken care not to interpret the Act "beyond its original language and purpose." May-Som, 869 F.2d at 921; see also Beachler, 112 F.3d at 904-05; Chestnut Hill, 940 F.2d at 750. Indeed, the legislative history of the PMPA reveals that Congress sought to "protect a franchisee's 'reasonable expectation' of continuing the franchise relationship while at the same time insuring that distributors have 'adequate flexibility . . . to respond to changing market conditions and consumer preferences.'" Patel v. Sun Co., 63 F.3d 248, 250 (3d Cir. 1995) (quoting S. Rep. No. 95-731 at 19 (1978), reprinted in 1978 U.S.C.C.A.N. 873, 877). Thus, the PMPA represents a "product of compromise," "affording franchisees important but limited procedural ...