Residents across Detroit are furious at the city and its car towing practices, asserting in a lawsuit that a local towing company conspired with police to impound vehicles without informing owners.
The Detroit News reports that the suit, recently filed in U.S. District Court, claims that Bobby’s Towing has been charging exorbitant storage fees for months, even if car owners are unaware that their vehicle is even in storage.
Detroit’s police towing operation has been at the center of controversy for many years and in October, the police department took over most of the city’s towing.
According to car leasing firm Brite Financial Services attorney Jason Katz, the city has violated the rights of clients by not informing them that their vehicles have been in storage. It is also alleged that the city has forced owners to pay the thousands of dollars in storage fees before they were given the chance to fight the case in court.
“There are likely thousands of people this has happened to. 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.
“So they can keep vehicles without informing the owners, and then charge ridiculous storage fees,” Katz said.
Some residents say they weren’t informed their vehicles had been towed.
In one case, Detroit resident Gerald Grays says that he loaned his 2000 Pontiac Grand Prix to his son on January 4, 2016. Grays’ son parked the car outside his girlfriend’s house but hours later, the car was gone. Grays filed a stolen vehicle report with the Detroit police the following day.
However, Grays heard nothing about the vehicle until two years later when Detroit police revealed that the car was being held at Bobby’s Towing. It had raked up more than $11,000 in storage fees.
Detroit Deputy Corporation Counsel Chuck Raimi has denied all allegations.
“We deny the allegations made in this suit and will defend against them vigorously in court,” he said.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has also filed a motion to dismiss the case.
“(The laws being challenged) are not unconstitutional on their face because they provide for sufficient notice and an opportunity to be heard, and because they do not provide for unreasonable seizures,” his motion claims.