Maag seeks new judge in proposed class action against local towing company

Ann Maher Sep. 12, 2012, 7:12am


Plaintiff attorney Thomas Maag has asked for a new judge in a proposed class action where he seeks damages for the "improper" towing of his client's vehicle.

Maag represents Tiffany A. Craycraft of East Alton who alleges Black Lane Auto Parts of Caseyville towed her 2000 Ford Taurus from a Caseyville road on April 11 without her consent.

She seeks damages for alleged violations of the Illinois Vehicle Code under its Ant-Theft Laws and Abandoned Vehicles chapter, as well as under the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act because when she retrieved her vehicle she did not receive a detailed, signed receipt showing the legal name of the towing service.

The lawsuit was filed four weeks after Craycraft's vehicle was towed from a turning lane on Highway 157 that leads to eastbound Interstate 64.

She had been arrested by Caseyville Police at 2:30 a.m. after she was observed disobeying a traffic light, court documents show.

During the traffic stop, Caseyville officer Andrew Schuler determined that Craycraft was the subject of an outstanding warrant issued by the St. Clair County Circuit Clerk, and she was taken into custody.

Schuler wrote in an affidavit attached to Black Lane's brief in support of dismissing the suit that the vehicle had posed a serious traffic hazard, which is why a "police tow" was authorized to remove Craycraft's vehicle.

Black Lane, represented by Thomas R. Frenkel of Carbondale, argues that plaintiff's individual claims should be dismissed with prejudice and Maag's motion for class certification should be denied.

"Defendant effected a police tow of an unattended vehicle, a 2000 Ford Taurus, incidental to Plaintiff's arrest, from a location in a traffic lane of a public highway where it presented a traffic hazard, at the direction of a law enforcement agency, all in the interest of public safety," Frenkel wrote.

"Accordingly, the 2000 Ford Taurus was properly towed under subsection of 4-203(d) of the Code as the tow was ordered by police from a public highway to a police impound lot. And because the tow was a police tow from a public highway, the Code's receipt requirement, which applies only to towing or removal of a vehicle from private property, does not apply."

Crafycraft's complaint states that Black Lane does not have authority 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.

Maag proposes certifying a class that includes persons whose vehicles were towed from May 10, 2009, in which the vehicles were alongside roadways for a time period less than that specified by statute, "and the operator of the vehicle was not placed under arrest for a violation of...the Illinois Vehicle Code."

He also seeks to include persons who paid funds to Black Lane Auto Parts to get vehicles that had been towed with authorization from law enforcement, from May 10, 2009, and in which Black Lane did not provide a detailed signed receipt showing the legal name of the towing service at the time of payment.

Madison County Associate Judge Thomas Chapman had presided in the case. Maag moved for substitution of judge on Sept. 7, and as of Sept. 11, the case had not been reassigned.

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

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