Man alleges Lowe's terminated contract after he raised regulations concerns

By Robbie Hargett | Dec 3, 2015

CHICAGO (Legal Newsline) – A man is suing a home improvement retailer after it allegedly terminated its contract with him when he raised concerns about the company's failure to comply with federal and regulatory requirements.

William Stoecker filed a lawsuit Nov. 25 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division against Lowe's Home Centers and Lowe's Cos., alleging interference with contract, interference with prospective economic relations, and violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

In 2013, Stoecker and Wallace Pritz, who both had separate remodeling companies, formed Blackwell Industries for the purpose of entering into a business relationship with Lowe's as part of the company's PSI Program after Lowe's had approached Stoecker about participating in the program as a contractor. Pritz would own the company and Stoecker would serve as an independent contractor, the suit states.

Stoecker and Pritz explained to Lowe's they were entering into this relationship at great expense and were only doing it based on Lowe's' repeated promises of significant, long-term profit opportunity.

After entering into a contract agreement with Lowe's, Blackwell expended almost $1 million in additional equipment and personnel in anticipation of Lowe's' plan for the company's expansion.

Stoecker later discovered Lowe's was not complying with important Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations and local permit requirements, and that it lowered its prices below fair market rates.

The suit states Lowe's denied Stoecker's and Blackwell's requests to meet federal regulations and requirements because satisfying protocols would drive up customer costs.

Lowe's stopped doing business with Blackwell by March without sending any formal notice of termination or otherwise communicating with Blackwell or Stoecker, according to the suit. Lowe's then contracted with personnel that had worked with Blackwell, eventually eliminating Blackwell as a contractor.

The suit states Lowe's intentionally induced Blackwell to breach its agreement with Stoecker by requiring Blackwell not to follow important EPA and OSHA regulations, requiring Blackwell to reduce installation and remodeling prices below compliant market costs, threatening to discontinue the Blackwell contract if Blackwell heeded Stoecker's compliance advice, and inducing Blackwell and Stoecker to make major investments in the PSI program without notice of Lowe's non-compliance strategy regarding federal regulations.

Stoecker seeks damages, interests, treble damages, injunctive relief, exemplary damages, attorney fees, and other costs. He is represented by attorneys Sean P. Patrick and Aaron E. Rifkind of Rifkind Patrick in Chicago.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division Case number 1:15-CV-10631

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