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Detroit faces another lawsuit over towing practices

December 29, 2018

DETROIT (AP) — Two Detroit residents and a car leasing company have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the city and a towing company worked with police to impound vehicles without informing owners.

The suit alleges that Bobby’s Towing was allowed to charge exorbitant storage fees to unsuspecting car owners, for months or years, The Detroit News reported .

Jason Katz is the attorney for the car leasing firm Brite Financial Services of Madison Heights and Detroit residents Gerald Grays and Dale Riley. He said the city violated his clients’ constitutional rights by not informing them about what happened to their vehicles, charging thousands in storage fees and making them pay before fighting the issue in court.

An attorney for Bobby’s Towing Services declined to comment to the newspaper. City attorneys and the state attorney general’s office said they’ll prove in court that the allegations have no merit.

“We deny the allegations made in this suit and will defend against them vigorously in court,” said Detroit Deputy Corporation Counsel Chuck Raimi.

The lawsuit is the latest in a string of controversies surrounding the city’s police towing operation . Officials said Detroit police took over most of the city’s towing operations in October, with the hope of fixing the issues with the process.

Grays reported to the Detroit police in 2016 that his vehicle had been stolen, but he wasn’t informed by police until Feb. 2018 that the car was being held by Bobby’s Towing, the lawsuit said. The tow yard informed Grays that the $15 daily storage fee had reached $11,000.

Riley reported a vehicle missing in 2015, but wasn’t informed until 2017 that it had been found in a vacant lot and marked as abandoned, the lawsuit said. Riley wasn’t given a chance to retrieve the vehicle before it was towed, according to the suit.

Brite Financial alleges that the towing company refused to release one of their vehicles back to them, the lawsuit alleges. The leasing firm was later notified that the vehicle had been abandoned.

“There are likely thousands of people this has happened to,” Katz said. “This is a consequence of a really poor legal system. The law doesn’t protect vehicle owners, because there is no deadline to report to the owner that their car has been towed or deemed abandoned.

The federal lawsuit was filed in July, but Katz is seeking to have the case approved as a class action. A hearing on the issue is scheduled for Jan. 9.

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Information from: The Detroit News, http://detnews.com/

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