By on February 15, 2018

John Cena

Late last year, Ford Motor Company decided to sue professional wrestler and actor John Cena after he decided to sell his GT supercar. Hoping to keep ownership of the vehicle exclusive, the automaker included a clause in the ownership contract that expressly forbade anyone from selling it within two years of taking delivery. Cena decided to flip the vehicle early, causing Ford to go after him in the courts on breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation, and unjust enrichment.

His position appeared to be indefensible. Ford’s lawsuit even alleges that John apologized after the automaker took him to task, saying, “I completely understand and as stated am willing to work with you and Ford to make it right.”

However, the winds may have shifted in his favor. Cena is reportedly asking the judge in the case to throw out the lawsuit on the grounds that his contract never included the clause that forbid resale within the first 24 months of ownership. 

“Ford’s action rests entirely on an alleged resale restriction that Ford failed to have its dealer incorporate in the dealer’s sales agreement,” the dismissal motion reads. “Ford failed to cause its selling dealer to include any resale restriction, so Ford has no claim.”

That assertion may be accurate. Instead of of a signed contract that includes the clause, Ford’s keystone evidence appears to be a screenshot of an online agreement referencing the two-year retention clause. However the automaker’s filing later mentions a signed a Ford GT order confirmation where he agreed “By signing this Order Confirmation Form you are verifying the following: … (B) You understand that being selected for the opportunity to purchase this vehicle is non-transferable and agree not to sell the vehicle within the first 24 months of delivery.”

However, Cena’s legal team claims Ford failed to mention that Ford tasked the selling dealer to establish the “purchase price and all other terms of sale.” Apparently, that includes those resale restrictions stipulated by Ford — which the dealer doesn’t appear to have included in the final contract.

One aspect both sides appear to agree on is Cena being chosen specifically due to an almost-promise he made that he would promote the vehicle and the brand. Ford allowed him to purchase the limited-production model after he filed an application that included photos and video of himself promoting high-end cars and his assurance that the GT would go “to an owner who truly deserved it and would care properly for the car.”

While Cena did post a video of himself praising the car on the Bella Twins YouTube channel after taking ownership of the model, he sold the car a few weeks later. The lawsuit claims it was done so he could liquidate it for cash “to take care of expenses.”

Ford is seeking damages in excess of $75,000 and wants to buy back the GT for Cena’s original purchasing price, minus whatever profit he made from it when it was sold. Cena is asking to have the case thrown out.

[Image: Bella Twins via YouTube]

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27 Comments on “John Cena Ready to Take Ford to the Mat Over Supercar Contract...”


  • avatar
    EBFlex

    Ford is so slimy.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      What’s so slimy about being up front about yanking in publicity whores? That was Ford’s intent and they wanted to contractually bind said whores to two years worth of free advertising in the hope that somebody like Cena would convince some poor bastard that driving a base spec Fiesta would be as cool as Cena driving a Ford GT.

      I can’t remember Ford actively courting certain people and coaxing them to purchase a Ford GT. Instead they made a big show out of a vetting process for the sake exclusivity (not unlike Lexus and the LFA) and the no sell clause made the rounds quite extensively before the car went on sale.

      Ford could be nice and let Cena off and punish the stealership instead but then that opens the door for other buyers to dump their cars if the final sales contract didn’t contain the proper language.

      Caveat Emptor!

  • avatar
    jh26036

    Billionaires fighting millionaires.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    In other legal news: Grumpy Cat was awarded $700,000 in a copyright lawsuit a few weeks ago. I like Grumpy Cat, Ford and Cena, not so much.

  • avatar
    Eric the Red

    Why is “Ford so slimy”? They made a decision on all the GTs to keep them from being flipped.

    Their mistake was not making sure the Dealership did the paperwork correctly.

  • avatar
    arach

    What is really interesting about this is it occurred in Florida.

    Why is this interesting? Because Florida has very strict dealership-protection laws.

    here’s my guess:
    Cena Wins

    Why?
    Because the Cena-Ford contract is deemed void because of illegal consideration paid from Ford, since Ford is not legally able to allocate a car to Cena in the State of Florida.

    I think this is why the contract suggested it would have to be spelled out in the final contract between Cena and the Dealership, because Ford knew they couldn’t oblige Cena due to the franchise laws. Therefore, the only way Ford could truly oblige Cena is to have it in the contract between Cena and the dealership.

    The agreement between cena and Ford therefore, while not legally admissible (as it fails the requirements for a contract), did provide ford enough confidence to arrange the sale with the dealer.

    There’s no UCC concerns between Cena and Ford because Cena + Ford is not a sales contract, only Cena and the dealership is a sales contract with UCC applying.

    There’s my “I’m not a lawyer but wish I was” assessment.

    • 0 avatar
      Cash

      I was thinking something similar. You’ve taken the analysis much further. I, too, wondered how Ford Motor got itself in the middle of a transaction between dealer and customer when the manufacturer is not allowed to sell cars except through a dealer. How did Ford have standing to bring suit when it wasn’t legally the seller? Am starting to think Ford lawyers screwed up. Ford’s understanding with Cena may not carry over into Cena’s contract with the dealer who sold him the car.

  • avatar
    TheEndlessEnigma

    I’m interested in the legality of the purchase agreement to begin with. How can any entity restrict the use or resale of a product AFTER it has been sold. At the time the sale is finalized the product is no longer the property of the seller and is now the property of the buyer. How can you restrict actions related to private property at that point?

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      You certainly can do that… It happens all the time, especially in Business-to-Business contracts.

      I even bought a cash property and had to agree with the seller that I wouldn’t resell it for 24 months without paying him some money back (because he sold it under value, as he was excited what our project would do for the community). These kinds of contracts exist all the time.

      And it wasn’t even sold to Cena, it was sold to Cena’s company… so this was even B2B and not B2C!

      Other companies have these types of clauses:
      Ferrari is the one that comes to mind:
      http://autoweek.com/article/car-news/flipping-ferraris-contract-buyers-will-thwart-resale-prized-550-barchetta

      The bigger concern is how the contract is worded. Ford and the dealer are two different companies, so can Company A restrict what company C buys from Company B? That is the point that I find more interesting.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      It also happens with software and other electronic products like e-books. I seem to recall that some game producers wanted to limit the ability to resell physical game cartridges, too.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    If the dealer delivering the vehicle and generating/handling the paperwork did not include all of Ford’s requirements for the sale including what I consider advertising “puffery” that the vehicle could not be sold for 24 months, then Ford should be suing the dealer for non-compliance with Ford’s rules.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    He hired a lawyer who read the contract. Wow, heavy. Ford obviously forgot that pre-purchase and purchase agreement are two different agreements. They need a lawyer. Their litigation is going to cost them more than what they can ever recover from him. Wow, heavy. To make things fun, since he has a lawyer already, he should implead the selling dealer for fraudulent misrepresentation. That will offer Ford an insurance pocket to draw from.

  • avatar
    turf3

    Seems pretty straightforward.

    Pull out the contract that the customer actually signed. Read the contract that the customer actually signed. If it says “thou shalt not sell”, then he’s in breach. If it doesn’t say that, then he isn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Exactly. But I can’t believe Ford would be stupid enough to sue someone – particularly a celebrity – over a nonexistent contract clause.

      I suspect there’s more to the story here.

  • avatar
    Fred

    Sad that no one buys these type of cars to drive.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Ahhhhhh…the plot thickens.

    I figured that if Ford was suing him over this, there must be a contract clause specifying no flipping. If there was, then Cena would have no case.

    But do I read correctly that there was no such clause?

    If that’s the case, how could a company with an entire army of lawyers be stupid enough to sue someone – a celebrity, no less – over a clause that didn’t exist?

    We’ll find out more as we go along, I suppose.

  • avatar
    ScarecrowRepair

    I don’t understand how any contract can control what happens after the sale. If Ford had wanted to prevent a resale for 24 months, why not make it a 24 month lease with guaranteed ownership at the end if certain terms had been met?

    I remember reading about books having some kind of “first-sale” doctrine which prevented book sellers from controlling anything after the sale.

    Once you sell it, it’s not yours anymore. If you want to control the buyer’s options, make it a lease. Double the sale vale with promises to refund half after 24 months if not sold. Any number of ways to do it without giving the seller control after sale.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      “I don’t understand how any contract can control what happens after the sale.”

      I’m no lawyer, but I’m sure it can’t, unless both parties agree that it can.

      In this case, Ford’s saying that clause was in the contract, and Cena’s saying it isn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      In real estate, sales with a “possibility of reverter” [to the seller] or being subject to a condition subsequent are quite common.

      It would not take a legal genius to structure the transaction in a way that enforceably restricts the owner’s right to sell car during his first two years of ownership.

      The question here is whether Ford did this — with the complicating factor as to who really sold the car, Ford or the dealer. I know nothing of dealer franchise laws, but it would seem reasonable with a limited production car like this that Ford could retain ownership until the consumer buys it, with the dealer functioning as Ford’s agent.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    So, let me get this straight:

    Ford doesn’t want to sell cars directly to the public, except when they do.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      On the contrary… Ford is dying to sell cars direct to the public, but the gov’t won’t let them, so they try to ind every conceivable way to bypass the law!

      • 0 avatar
        Cash

        And the govt won’t let them because dealers got state legislatures to pass laws barring car companies from selling cars except through dealerships. Dealers did this to protect themselves from Henry Ford. Postwar recession in 1919 caused car sales in US to collapse. Most car companies stopped production for a few months. Not Ford. He kept his assembly plant operating, forcing dealers to take delivery of cars they couldn’t sell. If they didn’t, Ford would strip them of their franchise.

        In many small towns, the car dealer, even in 1919, is the biggest business. Lots of money and political clout. Every state soon passed laws denying car makers the right to sell cars except through franchised dealers and making it next to impossible for car companies to strip dealers of their franchises.

        I learned this from, of all people, Robert McNamara, the architect of Vietnam. I happened to meet him and we got to talking. At Ford in the 1950s half his time was spent fighting the dealers. He absolutely hated them and had Ford’s lawyers try to find ways around the franchise laws. Total failure. When he resigned the Ford presidency to become JFK’s secretary of defense, Ford continued to give him one new car every year for the rest of his life. Even that transaction needed to be run through a dealership.

  • avatar
    CrystalEyes

    Maybe they figured if they couldn’t get the publicity from his endorsment, they could get it from a suing him instead. Just kidding. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exhaustion_doctrine_under_U.S._law

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