Archive for Friday, June 23, 2006

Judge dismisses suit against towing company

June 23, 2006


A judge has dismissed a consumer-protection lawsuit filed by Atty. Gen. Phill Kline against a Lawrence-based towing company.

In a ruling released this morning, District Court Judge Paula Martin found Kline's claims against TransMasters towing were pre-empted by a federal law that states that a state can't control towing prices.

Kline had filed suit in November against TransMasters and owner Kevin Raasch, alleging the company charged "grossly excessive fees" and committed 14 violations of the Kansas Consumer-Protection Act dating back to 1999.

In one instance, Kline alleged a woman was told she'd have to pay $1,500 to get her car back because of incremental storage fees.

Kline claimed the fees amounted to "unconscionable acts" and deceptive business practices, in violation of the Kansas Consumer Protection Act.

But Raasch's attorney, David Hauber argued successfully that the suit amounted to de facto price regulation barred by the 1995 Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act. The law states that a state may not enact a law "related to a price, route or service of any motor carrier... with respect to the transportation of property."

One exception is that the state may set a maximum price for "non-consensual" tows - those performed without the prior consent or authorization of the owner or operator of the vehicle, such as those ordered by police. But Martin found the issue was moot because the Kansas Consumer-Protection Act doesn't set any maximum price for non-consensual tows.

Hauber said consumer savvy, not a consumer-protection lawsuit, was the answer to people's concerns about towing prices.

"It's just like anything else: before you incur a bill, you should question the people about what their charges are going to be," he said.

Hauber said that since the lawsuit was filed, Raasch has been barred from doing tows on the Kansas Turnpike.

"They've drastically impacted his business, and they've done it because of pricing," he said.


OldEnuf2BYurDad 11 years, 9 months ago

"pre-empted by a federal law that states that a state can't control towing prices"

THAT'S NEWS TO ME! I work in auto finance, and I deal with auto impounds on a daily basis. There ARE state and local laws that regulate towing fees. I'm not sure how this makes any sense, because all across the country, governments are regulating those rates.

emtid4u 11 years, 9 months ago

Just another Kline misinterpreted law that cost a small businessman money. Chase the little guy Phill make em hurt.

Better yet learn how to do your job Phill or resign and let a competent person do the job..

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 9 months ago

not to mention a tow company will take you for everything if they can get away with it.

justthefacts 11 years, 9 months ago

Trying to protect consumers - That is CLEARLY something that the AG is not allowed to do...???

I guess some people hate PK so much they'll even root for scam artists - or forgive me "the small business man who charges $1500 for a tow" - before admitting he might have tried doing the right thing.

Must be hard to do a good job when people will say you aren't, no matter what happens.

moderation 11 years, 9 months ago

Isn't Paula Martin the judge with the most decisions overturned in Kansas?

Baille 11 years, 9 months ago

"But Martin found the issue was moot because the Kansas Consumer-Protection Act doesn't set any maximum price for non-consensual tows."

That sounds fishy to me. I would like to read the decision. In a non-consensual tow, there is no protection for the one whose property is being towed. There is no due process nor is there opportunity to bargain. There must be some sort of remedy from the courts to prevent abuse of this practice. Cares must be towed in certain situations, but without access to judicial remedy or state regulation that towing company could charge $5000 for the tow.

While ther may well be federal preemption under the ICC (questionable) it should not apply to non-consensual tows.

Anybody have access to the decision?

dozer 11 years, 9 months ago

Thanks Transmasters... for taking care of people when they are in a vulnerable position.

Brilliant excuse by the way! "Hey consumer, shop around for other tow companies while you're stranded on the side of I-70 at 3:00 AM"

Godot 11 years, 9 months ago

"The state could also quite reasonably require periodic publication of those fees by the tow companies in the newspaper of record for the area.

The City Of Lawrence could do these things as well when it next takes time off from building roundabouts."

Fie on thee, fie, fie!!! Do not suggest the Kommission make any more laws. This, too, can wait until after the next election.

fletch 11 years, 9 months ago

I'm torn. Who do I root for, Phil Kline or the scuzziest tow company in Lawrnece? Well, I have to say that in this case I'm going to have to go with Phil Kline. Wow. That's a first. Oh well.

Fun Transmasters story: a couple of years ago my roommate put his car up on wheel jacks in our apartment complex parking lot to change the oil and do some routine maintainence. He had to leave it up overnight because it started to rain. Our complex manager gave him the okay to leave it up since it was out of the way, and he even put a note in his window apologizing if anybody thought it was an eyesore. Next morning, he wakes up and finds his car gone. The complex manager said he didn't have it towed, so he called the police. Turns out Transmasters had it. One of our neighbors who happened to drive the same model (different year, but still a silver Camry) and had needed a tow from our parking lot because of mechanical problems. She arranged for it while she was at work. Transmasters had shown up, assumed it was on the one on the jacks without checking the liscence plate, and taken it to the repair shop. The repair shop had no record of that car coming in (because they were smart enough to check the plates). So Transmasters kept the car isntead of putting it back like they should have. They kindly asked for $250 in towing and storage fees for a tow that was neither asked or needed.

So yeah, that was a fun waste of two days and numerous legal threats. I'm glad Transmasters can't tow on the Turnpike. If life was just, that place should be out of business.

barelygettingby 11 years, 8 months ago

Ha Ha Ha!! How not surprising! Can't expect a crook to be smart!

Commenting has been disabled for this item.