Carrie Rengers

A lawsuit that was almost three decades in the making is over in three months

It took Mike Steven almost three decades to sue the Lexus division of Toyota Motor Sales USA after not being selected as Wichita’s Lexus franchisee, but it took a judge only three months to dismiss the case.
It took Mike Steven almost three decades to sue the Lexus division of Toyota Motor Sales USA after not being selected as Wichita’s Lexus franchisee, but it took a judge only three months to dismiss the case. File photo

It took Mike Steven almost three decades to sue the Lexus division of Toyota Motor Sales USA after not being selected as Wichita’s Lexus franchisee, but it took a judge only three months to dismiss the case.

In July, Steven and his longtime CFO, Harold Johnson, filed the suit in U.S. District Court.

From 1970 to 2016, Steven — now a resident of Las Vegas, according to the lawsuit — was a Toyota dealer in Wichita.

The lawsuit stated that when Toyota announced its new Lexus division at a dealer meeting in 1989, dealers were told they’d be the top choices to sell the new luxury line, but that’s not what happened.

The suit said Steven and Johnson deferred litigation over the issue because they believed the Toyota franchise “would be in jeopardy” if they did anything.

They filed the lawsuit under the Automobile Dealers Day in Court Act and said the statute of limitations had been extended “due to the coercion, intimidation and threats” by Lexus.

The dismissal says that Steven doesn’t have standing under that act because the dealer was Eddy’s Toyota of Wichita and not Steven individually.

Also, the dismissal says the statute of limitations prohibits the claim as well and is not tolled because Steven was not diligent in pursuing his rights or showing “that some extraordinary circumstance stood in his way and prevented timely filing.”

“A party who waits more than twenty-five years after receiving a threat to bring a suit has not been pursuing his rights diligently.”

The order also denied Steven’s request to amend his complaint to add a promissory estoppel claim because that claim would also be barred by the statute of limitations.

Steven said he has no comment at this time. When asked if he’ll appeal, he reiterated that he will not comment.

Carrie Rengers has been a reporter for almost three decades, including 16 years at The Wichita Eagle. Her Have You Heard? column of business scoops runs five days a week in The Eagle. If you have a tip, please e-mail or tweet her or call 316-268-6340.
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