On Your Side: Bolivar business reopens after Sears lawsuit

Published: Mar. 22, 2021 at 6:27 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - You might remember about two years ago when bankrupt Sears sued a locally owned store in the Ozarks.

The lawsuit caused the doors to close, but now the business is back open.

Before it was Goforth Home & Lawn, it was a Sears Hometown store. When the corporate giant filed for bankruptcy, franchisee Matt Goforth, decided not to renew his contract. His wife, Malinda, opened a new business in the same spot. Sears sued claiming that’s a violation of the non-compete agreement and wanted Goforth to pay close to one million dollars.

“I’m shocked that we’ve had the ability to stay in the race this long.,” said Matt Goforth.

The battle happened in arbitration.

Last fall, an arbitrator, which is like a judge, sided with Sears. Goforth didn’t have to pay the nearly one million dollar fine. Instead, Sears says he was told to pay $80,000 for ‘misconduct’. Goforth Home and Lawn could not sell competing products, like appliances or mattress.

“It just wasn’t enough to keep the doors open,” said Matt Goforth.

The doors closed. They hired a new attorney in Oregon. They appealed.

“Our miracle happened. The walls of our Jericho are falling,” said Malinda Goforth.

The appellate arbitrator reached a ‘different conclusion’. The award document reads: ‘Any competitor could acquire that location, not just Goforth. Goforth is simply giving consumers other choices. This is the essence of competition.’

The doors are now open. Malinda Goforth can sell whatever she wants.

Matt and Malinda say they’ve spent about $200,000 in this court battle.

On Your Side reached out to Sears’ attorneys asking for an interview they sent a statement.

It says in part:

“Sears Hometown has asked a federal court to throw out the latter part of the appellate arbitrator’s ruling and that request is now pending. All Sears Hometown sought was the opportunity to continue to serve the Bolivar community as it had done since 1998.”

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