(CN) – The Justice Department reached a settlement with a Virginia towing company to compensate 26 service members whose cars were towed and sold while they were on active duty.
In 2008, the United States sued Aristocrat Towing in the Eastern District of Virginia after the company enforced a storage lien on Navy Lt. Yahya Jaboori’s vehicle while he was in Iraq. An amended complaint identified 25 service members who were victims of Aristocrat’s towing trucks.
Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) of 2003, a towing company must obtain a court order before it may sell a vehicle to enforce a lien upon it. Aristocrat Towing sold the cars without obtaining court orders as the act requires.
In a similar case, the 4th Circuit recently ruled that service members may recover damages under the Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010 for the improper enforcement of liens on the property of active duty military personnel. A federal judge later granted summary judgment against a towing company that sold the Jeep Cherokee of deployed sailor.
Pursuant to the settlement, Aristocrat Towing must pay $75,000 in damages, which will be held in trust to compensate the service members who came back from active duty to find their car towed. In addition, the company must correct any negative credit entries posted to the service members’ records.
“No member of the military should come home from deployment to find their car has been towed and sold,” U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said in a statement . “Businesses should be aware of the many rights that SCRA gives to servicemembers and their families, and businesses should also be certain that we’ll work tirelessly to ensure that those rights are protected.”