published Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Honda cycle salesman sues over dismissal

A former salesman for Southern Honda Powersports said he lost his job last year after he refused to sign documents saying the dealership had made required safety disclosures and recalls on its motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles.

In a lawsuit filed in Hamilton County Chancery Court, Neil A. Highfield claims that his job was terminated a year ago at Honda's biggest motorcycle dealership after he had been one of its leading salesman.

According to the lawsuit, filed by attorney Randall Larramore, Southern Honda Powersports "demanded that (Mr. Highfield) falsify documents required by American Honda ... and by federal rules and regulations."

Mr. Larramore said that Mr. Highfield's dismissal violated the state's whistleblower protection laws and he since has suffered from a loss of income, emotional distress and embarrassment.

Tim Kelly, owner of the Honda motorcycle and ATV dealership in Chattanooga, said he does not comment on the specifics of pending litigation. But he called the lawsuit "completely baseless and without merit, and we will vigorously defend against it in court."

"We're committed to the safety and the welfare of our customers," Mr. Kelly said.

Mr. Highfield said Monday he sold or delivered thousands of bikes and ATVs from 2005 until he was dismissed in May 2009. Before an audit of the dealership by American Honda, Mr. Highfield said a stack of documents was put on his desk to sign, verifying that safety disclosures had been made to customers and corrective actions made on all product recalls.

"They wanted me to sign them, saying I had gone over everything with the customer, which I had not," he said in a telephone interview. "So I never signed the forms."

Honda completed its audit of the Chattanooga dealership in 2008, and company spokesman Bill Savino said Southern Honda remains "a dealership in good standing."

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