Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Home / Opinion Digests / Business Law / CAV: No interlocutory review in Tesla litigation

CAV: No interlocutory review in Tesla litigation

The court of appeals lacked jurisdiction to review the order of a circuit court, acting in its appellate capacity, finding that the appellant had standing to litigate the action.


Appellant Tesla Inc. sought to open a manufacturer-owned dealership in Richmond. The Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles ruled that Tesla qualified under Code § 46.2-1572(4) to open a dealership. However, Appellee Virginia Automobile Dealers Association, which had intervened in the proceeding, appealed to the circuit court.

The Commissioner and Tesla filed demurrers, arguing that VADA had no standing to appeal. On June 26, 2017, the circuit court overruled the demurrers, finding that VADA had standing as an aggrieved party, though it did not reach the merits of VADA’s claims of error on appeal. The Commissioner and Tesla appealed the circuit court’s June 26 order.


This court does not have statutory authority to review the appealed order. Pursuant to Code § 17.1-405(1) and (4), this court has appellate jurisdiction over any final decision of a circuit court on appeal from a decision of an administrative agency and interlocutory decree or order adjudicating the principles of a cause. Generally, preliminary rulings, such as those overruling demurrers and determining standing, do not address the merits and, therefore, cannot be orders that adjudicate the principles of the cause.

Here, the Appellants agree that the circuit court’s order of June 26 was not a final order. Therefore, this court has jurisdiction to hear their interlocutory appeals only if the circuit court’s order adjudicates the principles of the cause.

The merits of VADA’s administrative appeal center on its contention that the Commissioner erred in finding that Tesla qualifies for a dealership. By contrast, the circuit court’s June 26 order addressed VADA’s right to proceed with an appeal of the Commissioner’s decision. It clearly did not address, let alone adjudicate, VADA’s assertion that the Commissioner erred; it simply determines that the case may proceed at this time.

The Appellants argue that if VADA is not an aggrieved party, then sovereign immunity prevents VADA from challenging the Commissioner’s decision. However, even if this court agreed with that contention, the court simply has no statutory jurisdiction to review the trial court’s order at this point in the litigation.

Appeals dismissed.

Tesla Inc. v. Va. Auto. Dealers Ass’n, Record No. 1180-17-2; Feb. 20, 2018. Va. App. (per curiam), from Richmond Cir. Ct. Charles C. Lifland for Appellant; Brad D. Weiss for Appellee. VLW No. 018-7-040, 5 pp.