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Should Detroit respond to lawsuit by changing towing policies?

Posted at 7:12 PM, Jul 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-23 19:12:15-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — A lawsuit is raising serious questions about towing practices in the City of Detroit and sending warning: If your car is towed by order of police, it could be weeks, months, or even more than a year before anyone tells you where it is.

7 Action News reported last year on a lawsuit that was filed by people who say their cars were towed. They got no reasonable notice from Bobby’s Towing or Detroit. In one case the car was towed by police request in 2016. The owner reported it stolen, not knowing that for two years it was sitting at Bobby’s Towing in Detroit.

In another case notice took 3 months. How could this happen?

The attorneys working the case, Edmund Aronowitz and Jason Katz, say towers are supposed to notify the Secretary of State when they have a car after police order a tow. The problem is there is no time requirement for notice and if towers take their time, they make more money on storage fees.

According to records they obtained from the Secretary of State office, more than one third of the time it takes more than a month for the state to get notice to forward to vehicle owners. Then owners can’t challenge the tow in court or get their vehicle back unless they pay tow and storage fees.

“That’s how they earn their money. Let’s not give these cars back,” said Attorney Jason Katz.

So who is holding them accountable?

Katz shared with 7 Action NEws a copy of a deposition with Captain Michael Parish who is in charge of overseeing towing in the city of Detroit. When asked whether he investigated why notice took so long, he said no. As for why, when asked if the city had any control over them or is just hiring tow companies to make a tow, he said, “They’re there to perform a tow for us and beyond what’s articulated in the permit rules, tow rules, we do not quarterback their operations.”

The comment came after other mentions of not playing “Monday morning quarterback.”

Katz and Aronowitz say the city needs to know why people are not getting their property. It is a violation of the constitution for the government to take property and not give people due process to get it back.

An attorney for Bobby’s Towing says they are working on a settlement.

The city originally responded saying it does not comment on pending litigation, but then provided an additional statement from Lawrence Garcia, Corporation Counsel for the City of Detroit.

“All the rules for contesting the fact that a vehicle was considered abandoned and towed as well as the rules for contesting the reasonableness of the towing fees and daily storage fees are provided by Michigan Statute MCL 257.252.a. The City of Detroit did not create the rules, and it cannot change them. The city follows the law and treats all owners of towed vehicles fairly and respectfully,” said Garcia.

“The laws are written so poorly and Detroit’s administration of the laws is also so poor,” said Edmund Aronowitz, an attorney for the car owners.

Aronowitz and Katz say the city could keep better records of tows, so drivers who file a stolen car report are connected with their vehicles, could force towers it contracts with to notify the state more promptly, and could allow people who cannot afford to pay tow rates to still challenge allegedly improper tows in court.