Granite City faces another class action over towing fees and vehicle impoundment

Ann Maher May 23, 2012, 7:49am

The City of Granite City faces another class action lawsuit involving vehicle impoundment and towing fees.

In a suit filed May 16 in Madison County Circuit Court, attorney Thomas Maag claims his client's vehicle was impounded even though it was not in use when an alleged criminal offense took place.

Lead plaintiff William L. Finazzo claims he lent his friend a vehicle who drove it to and parked it at the Granite City Wal-Mart on April 20. The friend was subsequently arrested inside the store by Granite City police.

"That ultimately the friend of Finazzo was arrested by the Granite City Police, at the Wal-Mart store, inside the Wal-Mart store, and not in or near the vehicle," the complaint states.

"That the vehicle was not in use for any purpose whatsoever at the time of the arrest, as it was simply lawfully parked.

"That the arrest of Plaintiff's friend that purportedly justified the towing of the vehicle was not for any alleged offense which is listed in Granite City Municipal Code..."

The suit claims that the city has an actual policy of towing vehicles, incident to an arrest, even though the vehicle itself is not in use at the time of the alleged offense.

Maag also claims the city was not entitled to keep impoundment fees because it did not provide proper notice of an administrative hearing that would determine whether the vehicle was properly towed and impounded.

The proposed class action also names BAP Recovery LLC as a co-defendant.

BAP is accused of unlawfully collecting three days of vehicle storage fees - at $25 per day for a total of $75 - despite being prohibited from charging a storage fee for the first 24 hours Finazzo's vehicle was stored.

The company, which assessed a $185 towing fee - also is accused of charging substantially in excess of what other competing companies in the open market charge.

Granite City was among four Madison County municipalities that were sued last December over towing fees they imposed on drivers ticketed for DUI or driving with a suspended or revoked license.

The plaintiffs, represented 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, 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, which also include Edwardsville, Alton and Collinsville, are seeking to dismiss the claims, saying that the plaintiffs' fail to allege an exhaustion of administrative remedies. Similar suits have been filed in St. Clair County against the cities of O'Fallon and Fairview Heights.

Maag filed another proposed class action earlier this month against Black Lane Auto Parts, claiming the company towed an East Alton woman's vehicle without her consent.

His client, Tiffany Craycraft, claims Black Lane should not have towed her vehicle and does not have authorization to tow vehicles unless they have been abandoned on a toll highway or interstate highway for more than two hours or have been abandoned on a highway in an urban district for more than 10 hours, the complaint says.

She claims her vehicle had just been left on a Caseyville roadway for less than two hours when it was towed.

Finazzo: Madison County Circuit Court case number 11-L-696

Craycraft: Madison County Circuit Court case number: 12-L-641.

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