Strange laws (or lack thereof) in Arizona

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Old 04-04-14, 01:38 PM
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Strange laws (or lack thereof) in Arizona

Probably shouldn't post this while Vic is on hiatus, but I'll forget. Was reading a legal story in a tow industry trade magazine this morning on important towing-related lawsuits and their effects, etc over the last several decades.

The one that caught my eye was out of Arizona where a towing service owner was sued and jailed for refusing to release a customer's car legally towed from a private property posted "No parking - tow away zone".

Seems the towing company came up the loser because at the time (I think the dateline was back in the 80's), Arizona did not have on the books any law regarding a provision for placing a lien on a towed vehicle to ensure the towing and storage is paid. They were made to give back the car on demand without payment.

But wait, it gets better. Apparently, if the article is accurate, as of now there is still not a law on the books to cover this! I was speechless when I read that. The bottom line then would basically be that if you owned, let's say, a restaurant or an apartment complex you are basically powerless to prevent unauthorized parking. Or rather the only "penalty" would be the vehicle owner would have to go to the towing company's impound and reclaim their vehicle (at no charge). I'll just bet the towing companies are waiting in line to tow and store vehicles when they won't get paid for their services. Yikes! I have no idea how that affects situations like law enforcement impounds, etc.
 
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Old 04-04-14, 02:03 PM
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I find that hard to believe - hopefully the article was wrong! I don't know much about the towing business but I'd think the owners would get together and work on getting that law fixed. Who would want a business that had no teeth when it came to collecting what's owed!
 
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Old 04-04-14, 02:14 PM
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I know here we have to have signs posted in the lot that cars will be towed and then we have to have the police come out and write a ticket. Only at that point can we have the car towed.
 
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Old 04-04-14, 02:23 PM
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I wonder if maybe there was more to the story like maybe that particular tow truck company didn't follow all the rules ??
 
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Old 04-05-14, 08:10 AM
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My Dad used to be a tow truck driver and he owned his own tow truck. It wasn't a big tow truck just a small one but it suited his needs until he retired from the gas station business. Later after he retired he went on to a place that had a fleet of vehicles and then when he no longer worked there he worked for some people he knew who owned a towing service.

During the time my dad had his towing service he never impounded any vehicles just no room for that kind of thing but at the towing service he worked at part time they did. He never towed vehicles but he was responsible for dispatching trucks and if the owners were not there early enough collecting the money. I remember a few times where a customer would come to the office at the lot and my father told me they demanded their car back because they said they were never illegally parked. He told them what they told him to say pay up or leave.

As far as I know no truck was ever illegally towed by that business but I have heard of some really shady tow truck drivers in the District Of Columbia towing vehicles illegally. As a matter of fact I don't even remember any licensing ever being required in the district until at least around the late 1970's. If your car was ever in an accident in the district by a dc driver you probably would never get any insurance money from the other driver as at one time they didn't require auto insurance.
 
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Old 04-05-14, 11:26 AM
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The wildest tow I ever read of was written up by a syndicated Chicago newspaper columnist. Chicago tow companies at the time had a bad reputation for "aggressive" towing of illegally parked vehicles. Cook county deputies drove into Chicago to arrest a fugitive they had been told hung out at a certain bar. They parked in front of the bar, went in and made their arrest. When they came out with the fugitive their marked sheriff's cruiser had been towed.

When the Sheriff of Cook country later sent a deputy to retrieve the car the storage yard demanded payment of storage fees. Deputy reported back to the Sheriff. Sheriff rounded up all available patrol cars and drove to the impound yard. He too was refused the car unless he paid the fees. He pointed to the Sheriff cars filling the parking lot and said, "I'm taking the car now". He got the car back no fees paid.
 
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Old 04-05-14, 07:49 PM
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a towing service owner was sued and jailed for refusing to release a customer's car legally towed from a private property posted "No parking - tow away zone".
Interesting issue.

But, I see a problem with the framing of the question.
Eh, putting the car before the horse there.
Sounds like the court found that
(1) the car wasn't "legally towed'.
(2) the person wasn't a "customer", but a plaintiff.

This is an interesting topic.

On one hand, we have a small office building, in a small town.
It's an old 7-11, converted to offices.
And of course, we have neighbors that park in our lot, normally after business hours.
Generally, it's not a a problem, occasionally, an annoyance.

IIRC, towing law is descended from chattel law.
That's olde english for cattle law.
English laws deal with farm animals that wander onto the neighbors property.
Same "unwritten law" that you see played out in "The Sandlot".

Generally, it's straightforward "no harm, no foul".
If somebody's dog, or babe-ruth-baseball, or car is found on your property,
They have a duty to pay you for the damage it caused.
You have a duty to return it to them.

While you can put up a sign that says "cars will be towed at owner's expense"
or a sign that says "baseballs will be returned at owner's expense"
or a sign that says "dog poo will be removed at owner's expense"
The rule is, generally, if there's no harm, then there's no right to claim for money.


So, playing devil's advocate-
Generally, you need a contract to make somebody pay you money.

Signs are a way to create a uni-lateral offer.
Basically, an invitation to make a contract.
Then, the person chooses to accept that contract by performance.

So, what if the car has a sign in the windshield-

"by towing this car, you hereby agree to pay the owner 3x the towing fees"

Does the sign in the windshield trump the sign in the parking lot?
Why?
 

Last edited by Hal_S; 04-05-14 at 08:11 PM.
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Old 04-06-14, 12:31 AM
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How about the signs often posted in pay parking lots that state, "Not responsible for loss or damage." The sign is nothing but an intimidation since the contract (parking fee) is that the the lot owner is providing a safe place to park in exchange for the fee. If your car IS damaged (or stolen) then the lot IS responsible.
 
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Old 04-06-14, 07:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Furd
The sign is nothing but an intimidation since the contract (parking fee) is that the the lot owner is providing a safe place to park in exchange for the fee.
Well, not exactly. Sounds more like an expectation.

The fundamental concept of a contract law is that both parties have agree to something.
If one party party states that something isn't included in the contract,
and you want it, then you're not talking contract.

Might be possible to argue implied warranty, or merchantability, or consumer expectation,

Contracts are like ordering pizza.
If you order it, and they say they don't have it, that means you're not getting it.
 
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Old 04-07-14, 04:51 AM
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I'll have to get the copy of the article in order to better describe the situation; I think my description is a bit confusing. I think the chronology was that the car was properly towed from a private lot that was posted. When the owner went to the lot and demanded his car they said "pay up". He refused and called the cops. The cops told them they had to return the car; cut and dry no ifs, and, or buts. He returned the car and then was subsequently arrested (I don't recall what the charge listed was; vehicle theft? Something like that). The lawsuit was over the arrest. The article was quite clear that there was no misconduct on the part of the actual tow (the article was on Top Ten legal precedent cases involving towing, so the laws were the focus of the article, not predatory towing), but that because of the lack of a provision to put a lien on the vehicle to force payment, they were required to return the vehicle on demand.

And yes, the numbers of unscrupulous towers doing illegal tow-aways is legion. They give the rest of us a bad name, but in this case it appears to be a huge hole in the law in Arizona.

I don't do parking lot enforcement but I get the occasional call from a landlord that a tenant has moved out and left an abandoned vehicle they want removed. They procedures are quite clear here in Florida and nobody gets their car back without paying the towing and storage (I don't have that problem, nobody ever comes to claim the junk left behind when they move).

BTW, down here if a vehicle is obstructing the business it can be immediately towed without signs or warnings. Otherwise there has to be signs stating unauthorized vehicles will be towed and the name and phone number of the towing company the business uses for enforcment.

Vic? Where you at, man?
 
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Old 04-07-14, 05:11 AM
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An Arizona news article:

Towed cars can't be held for payment

In this case the towing company was trying to be clever on the pay-up question. I won't comment for or against their strategy except to say the people parking where they shouldn't are clearly in the wrong and the towing company is under no obligation to dispense legal advice. On the other hand they are walking a narrow line on legality of holding the vehicle for payment. Not sure what the justification is for Arizona not having legislation to cover this as do (to the best of my knowledge) the other 49 states.
 
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