Saturday, September 23, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, September 23, 2023 | Back issues
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Justices to Sort Out Fate of Tow Company Lawsuit

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Supreme Court said it will decide the fate of a lawsuit against a company that towed and traded a car belonging to a man who was seriously ill.

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 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 Superior Court judge granted Dan's City summary judgment after finding that federal law pre-empted the suit.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court revived the claims against Dan's City in April, leading the company to seek relief from the U.S. Supreme Court.

It still says the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 pre-empts the suit, asking the justices to determine "whether state statutory, common law negligence, and consumer protection act enforcement actions against a tow-motor carrier based on state law regulating the sale and disposal of a towed vehicle are related to a transportation service provided by the carrier."

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