Amputee Has a Case Against Tow Company

     WASHINGTON (CN) – A towing company must face claims that it seized and traded a car belonging to a man who was seriously ill, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.
     Robert Pelkey sued his landlord, Colonial Village, and Dan’s City Used Cars dba Dan’s City Auto Body after they towed his Honda Civic in 2004.
     Colonial Village, a New Hampshire apartment complex, requires tenants to move their cars during snowstorms, but Pelkey left his car while bed-ridden with a serious medical condition that later required hospitalization.
     Pelkey had a heart attack while in the hospital undergoing a foot amputation, and then arrived home to discover his car had been towed.
     When his lawyer inquired about the car, Dan’s City said it had scheduled an auction in two day’s time. The lawyer then said Pelkey wished to get his car back, but the shop responded that it had already sold the car at public auction.
     In fact, the shop did not trade the car to a third party until later. It never compensated Pelkey for the loss.
     A judge granted Dan’s City summary judgment after finding that the suit pre-empted by Section 14501(c)(1) of the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994.
     Finding that clause inapplicable, however, the New Hampshire Supreme Court revived Pelkey’s claims against Dan’s City in 2012,
     It noted that the claims related to Dan’s City’s alleged conduct in disposing of his Honda post-storage, not to conduct concerning “the transportation of property.
     After taking up the case, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed Monday.
     “We hold, in accord with the New Hampshire Supreme Court, that state-law claims stemming from the storage and disposal of a car, once towing has ended, are not sufficiently connected to a motor carrier’s service with respect to the transportation of property to warrant pre-emption under §14501(c)(1),” Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the unanimous court. “The New Hampshire law in point regulates no towing services, no carriage of property. Instead, it trains on custodians of stored vehicles seeking to sell them. Congress did not displace the state’s regulation of that activity by any federal prescription.”

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