Lawyers seek to consolidate class actions against cities over tow fees

Ann Maher Apr. 17, 2012, 9:36am


Lawyers for plaintiffs and defense are asking Madison County Associate Judge Thomas Chapman to consolidate four proposed class action cases against the cities of Edwardsville, Alton, Collinsville and Granite City involving towing fees.

Chapman now presides over the four individual suits filed last December by attorneys Eric D. Holland and Steven L. Groves of Holland, Groves, Schneller and Stolze in St. Louis and Brian L. Polinske of Polinske and Associates in Edwardsville.

The proposed class includes drivers ticketed for DUI or driving with a suspended or revoked license and who were made to pay a premium fee to retrieve their impounded vehicles. The plaintiffs claim that the cities' administrative processing fee is not a tow fee but merely a receipt and is not related to the cost of towing, towing services or actual services provided.

The cities are seeking to dismiss the claims, saying that the plaintiffs' fail to allege an exhaustion of administrative remedies.

In the case against Granite City, city attorney Brian Konzen wrote that plaintiff David Funkhouser - who claims he had to pay the higher of two authorized administrative towing fees of $400 versus $150 to retrieve his car after a July 10, 2011 arrest - was entitled to a hearing to contest the fee, but failed to avail himself to it.

Polinske responded to Granite City's motion to dismiss by stating that when a constitutional challenge to an ordinance is raised the plaintiff is not first required to comply with the exhaustion of remedies doctrine.

He wrote that the plaintiff has pleaded with specificity that he has been deprived of the "substantive" due process protections afforded him by the Illinois Constitution.

"Therefore Plaintiff's theory is a constitutional challenge to the ordinance at issue," he wrote.

Similar class actions were filed against O'Fallon and Fairview Heights and are pending in St Clair County Circuit Court.

More News