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.
At TowLawyer.com we often get calls from subscribers frustrated over the lack of enforcement of laws and regulations that apply to their local towing operations. Nothing is more infuriating that seeing a flagrant violation of a towing ordinance or police department regulation by a competitor that goes unenforced. For example, a local ordinance requires all tow trucks to carry a fire extinguisher and broom but none of your competitor’s trucks have that equipment. Or the police department rotation rules require a 10-foot chain-link fence capped with strands of barbed-wire but your competition only has a rickety 6-foot fence patched up with chicken wire and pieces of tin.
On November 7, 2013, the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP), Chattanooga District, suspended Monteagle Wrecker Service (MWS) from its wrecker rotation list for one (1) year. The THP determined that MWS had violated the THP rotation wrecker rule which prohibits two (2) or more towing companies, owned in whole or in part by the same individual, to participate on the towing list within the same zone. According to the THP, the owner of MWS, Rodney Kilgore, had an ownership interest in two other THP-rotation companies in the same zone. That conclusion was based, in part, on evidence that MWS was processing credit card payments for all three companies. One of the other companies, which was being operated by Rodney Kilgore’s father, William Kilgore, was permanently removed from the THP list on the same day.