At TowLawyer.com we frequently receive phone calls and e-mails from tow company owners complaining that a police agency refuses to use their business for nonconsensual towing or that they have been denied placement on a police towing rotation list. They tell us they want to sue the sheriff, the police chief or the highway patrol supervisor for “violating their legal rights.”
Any towing company owner that performs law enforcement towing is familiar with the term “owner’s request,” or OR. In the event of a vehicle accident or breakdown, before the investigating officer dispatched a tow truck, the owner or driver of the vehicle who is on the scene is usually given the option of indicating his or her preference for a towing company. An OR overrides the normal rotation list or contractual agreement the police agency has made for towing service.
A TowLawyer.com subscriber recently informed me that one of his tow truck driver-employees had taken a trip to the beach with his adult daughter and her family. After he had been back to work for a few days, the driver found out that his daughter had been diagnosed with COVID-19. The driver felt fine and was not displaying any symptoms of the coronavirus. The TL subscriber asked, “What should I do? What can I legally do? Do I have to send him home? Can I require him to be tested for COVID-19 infection?” Those are important questions in these trying times.
Court Rules That Property Owner, Not Towing Company, Liable For $6,000+ In Attorney’s Fees In Wrongful Towing Case
Generally, under what is known as the “American Rule,” all parties to litigation are responsible for paying their own attorney’s fees. But a state legislature can, by statute, require the losing party to a lawsuit to pay the winning party’s legal costs in some circumstances. That is referred to as a “fee-shifting” statute. Under Illinois law, the loser in an unlawful towing case may be required to pay the vehicle owner’s attorney’s fees. In Roberto Lopez v. Rendered Services, Inc., an Illinois appellate court had to decide who the loser is in a successful wrongful towing case.
On June 29, 2016, a Shelby County (Tenn.) jury rejected Proffitt’s claim of self-defense and convicted him of attempted second degree murder. Proffitt was sentenced to fourteen (14) years in prison. He appealed the judgment to the Tennessee Criminal Court of Appeals. In a written opinion issued on December 13, 2018, the appellate court in State of Tennessee v. Joseph Proffitt upheld the jury’s verdict. Former tow truck driver Arnold remains paralyzed and is confined to a wheelchair. Proffitt currently resides at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in middle Tennessee. He has a parole hearing scheduled in July 2020.
Murel Laughlin, owner of Laughlin Wrecker Service, in Greeneville, Tennessee, passed away in January 2014. But he left behind an important court ruling about assessing the value of used tow trucks.
Every automobile loan agreement contains a provision allowing for self-help repossession in the event of default. If the borrower does not make the scheduled loan payments on time, a repossession agent is sent to pick up the vehicle. The uniform code on secured transactions provides that a repossession must be accomplished “without breach of the peace.”
Earlier this month I attended a meeting of a state legislative advisory board that was created to study issues in the towing industry. The 11-member board consists of law enforcement officials, state government officials, and members of the state towing association. The board meets twice a year with a stated purpose to make recommendations to the legislature and law enforcement on ways to improve the interaction between the towing industry and those that it serves.
A TowLawyer subscriber called last week about an insurance check he had received as payment for a tractor-trailer roll-over recovery. Before he received the check, he and the insurance company had been engaged in a running dispute about the amount of the invoice. The insurance company sent the towing company a check in the amount that it considered to be reasonable for the recovery services provided. The check was thousands of dollars less than the invoice amount. On the back of the check, at the bottom of the endorsement box, the following words were printed in bold type: “ACCEPTED AS PAYMENT IN FULL.”
Refusal to Return Recovered Stolen Vehicle to Owner Results in Criminal Conviction for Tennessee Tow Operator
Back in 2013, Morristown towing company owner James Morgan unwittingly got involved in a stolen car ring. Morgan, a one-truck operator, received a request to impound several dilapidated vehicles. The person requesting the tows indicated that he had bought the vehicles from their owners. It turned out that, in fact, he had not purchased some of the vehicles. He was using Morgan’s towing service to steal the cars.