Mobile Dodge, Inc. v. Mobile County

Decision Date02 December 1983
Citation442 So.2d 56
PartiesMOBILE DODGE, INC., a corporation v. MOBILE COUNTY and Treadwell Ford, Inc., etc. 82-401.
CourtAlabama Supreme Court

Mylan R. Engel and Edgar P. Walsh, Mobile, for appellant.

Richard D. Horne of Hess, Atchison & Horne and Vincent F. Kilborn, III of Kilborn & Gibney, Mobile, for appellees.

BEATTY, Justice.

This is an appeal by the plaintiff, Mobile Dodge, Inc., from the denial of injunctive relief which it sought against Mobile County and Treadwell Ford, Inc., for an alleged violation of Code of Ala. 1975, §§ 41-16-50 through -63 (the Competitive Bid Law). We affirm.

On September 14, 1982, the Mobile County Commission gave notice that it would receive bids per specifications on thirty-nine 1983 model police package automobiles for the Mobile County Sheriff's Department. By stipulation of the parties, this litigation involves only the 36 units that were to be delivered between January 15 and February 1, 1983. The invitations to bid contained specifications calling for, among other things, heavy-duty full length frames and front and rear coil-spring suspension systems. Both Mobile Dodge and Treadwell Ford submitted bids on the 36 units involved: Mobile Dodge submitted a bid of $289,199.89, and Treadwell Ford submitted a bid of $340,989.63. Although Mobile Dodge submitted the lowest bid of those responding, the contract was not awarded to Mobile Dodge, because it had submitted its bid on police units having frames with unibody construction and torsion bar suspension systems, and those units were determined by county officials not to be suitable for the needs and purposes for which the units were required.

Upon the recommendation of Mobile County Sheriff Thomas J. Purvis, and over the objection of Mobile Dodge, the Mobile County Commission awarded the contract to Treadwell Ford, which had submitted the lowest responsible bid, its units having met the frame and suspension requirements, and otherwise conforming to the bid specifications.

On November 15, 1982, Mobile Dodge filed its petition for injunctive relief in the Circuit Court of Mobile County against Mobile County and Treadwell Ford, seeking to enjoin Mobile County from purchasing for the Mobile County Sheriff's Department the 36 police package automobiles from Treadwell Ford.

In its complaint, Mobile Dodge alleged that it was the lowest responsible bidder; that the specifications were drawn so as to deliberately exclude Mobile Dodge as a competitor; and that Mobile County acted arbitrarily, capriciously, and in bad faith in awarding the contract to Treadwell Ford. In denying injunctive relief, the trial court, guided by the decision of this Court in White v. McDonald Ford Tractor Co., 287 Ala. 77, 248 So.2d 121 (1971), found:

"[T]hat the Sheriff's Department of Mobile County engaged in a reasonable and rational process, based on their experience and the experience of others, in selecting the requirements most suitable to meet their needs.

"....

"... The action of the Sheriff and the County in selecting the specifications found in the bid invitation did not constitute an abuse of discretion, was not illegal or contrary to the law, was not discriminatory, nor was it arbitrary, capricious or the result of bad faith."

"....

"... [T]hat process was directed toward the selection of cars which would be durable, safe and crashworthy...."

The trial court's order was entered on December 21, 1982. Since Mobile Dodge did not obtain a stay pending appeal, the purchase of the 36 police packages took place. Mobile Dodge's position on this appeal, however, is that although injunctive relief has been rendered moot it would be entitled to its profit from the sale of the 36 units.

The pertinent provisions of the competitive bid law, found in § 41-16-57(a) and (c), provide as follows:

"(a) When purchases are required to be made through competitive bidding, awards shall be made to the lowest responsible bidder taking into consideration the qualities of the commodities proposed to be supplied, their conformity with specifications, the purposes for which required, the terms of delivery, transportation charges and the dates of delivery.

"....

"(c) The awarding authority or requisitioning agency shall have the right to reject any bid if the price is deemed excessive or quality of product inferior."

The standard of conduct to be followed by State officials when drawing specifications for products to be bid on, and when selecting the lowest responsible bidder, were set out with particularity by this Court in White v. McDonald Ford Tractor Co., supra, and followed in International Telecommunications Systems v. State, 359 So.2d 364 (Ala.1978). In White, the invitation to bid upon the purchase of tractors contained specifications requiring tractors with sleeve-type engines, among other things. It was admitted that the specifications were drawn around the Massey-Ferguson turf tractor after State officials had agreed that it was best suited for the required purposes. McDonald was the low bidder; however, its Ford tractors did not meet the sleeve-type engine requirement, nor certain other requirements contained in the specifications, and the State officials determined that they were unsuitable. McDonald sought an injunction when it failed to persuade State officials of the merits of the Ford tractor. Injunctive relief was denied, and on appeal this Court upheld the award of the contract to a higher conforming bidder, explaining:

"We think that State authorities should have discretion in determining who is the lowest responsible bidder. This discretion should not be interfered with by any court unless it is exercised arbitrarily or capriciously, or unless it is based upon a misconception of the law or upon ignorance through lack of inquiry or in violation of law or is the result of improper influence. In reaching the decision which we reach in this case, we do not mean to imply that this Court or some other court would not have the authority to declare a contract as being void because the 'specifications' were written in such a manner that full and fair competition were excluded. It is fair to say that the legislative intent in passing the Competitive Bid Law was to get the best quality equipment at the lowest possible price, and the executive authorities should carry out this intent of the legislature. These officials must have discretion, not an unbridled discretion, but one exercised within the bounds we have tried to delineate in this opinion. The single most important requirement of the Competitive Bid Law is the good faith of the officials charged in executing the requirements of the law. A bad motive, fraud or a gross abuse of discretion will vitiate an award whether made with specifications which are quite general or very precise. The trial court found that no bad faith, improper motive, fraud or gross abuse of discretion was present here; hence, we think the court was without authority to interfere with the judgment and discretion of the State officials in determining that Booker was the 'lowest...

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7 cases
  • Spring Hill Lighting & Supply Co., Inc. v. Square D Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • April 14, 1995
    ...of America, 403 So.2d 893 (Ala.1981), cert. denied, 455 U.S. 913, 102 S.Ct. 1265, 71 L.Ed.2d 453 (1982); and Mobile Dodge, Inc. v. Mobile County, 442 So.2d 56 (Ala.1983). However, those cases dealt with injunctive relief and do not control this case, because Jenkins, Weber sought monetary d......
  • Advance Tank and Const. Co., Inc. v. Arab Works, 89-7443
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    ...Bid Law was to get the best quality equipment [or public construction] at the lowest possible price.' " Mobile Dodge, Inc. v. Mobile County, 442 So.2d 56, 58 (Ala.1983) (quoting White v. McDonald Ford Tractor Co., 287 Ala. 77, 86, 248 So.2d 121, 129 (1971)) (hereinafter "McDonald "); Arring......
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    • December 23, 1992
    ...that part of the Competitive Bid Law involving contracts for the purchase of "commodities." See, e.g., Mobile Dodge, Inc. v. Mobile County, 442 So.2d 56 (Ala.1983); International Telecommunications Systems v. State, 359 So.2d 364 (Ala.1978); White v. McDonald Ford Tractor Co., 287 Ala. 77, ......
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