Hearing set in class action against Granite City

By Christina Stueve Hodges | Feb 13, 2013


Madison County Associate Judge Stephen Stobbs on Feb. 6 set a hearing based on the City of Granite City’s motion to dismiss a class action lawsuit against it involving vehicle impoundment and towing fees.

In a suit filed May 16, attorney Thomas Maag claimed his client’s vehicle was impounded, even though it was not in use when an alleged criminal offense took place. Maag claims that the impoundment was a violation of law.

Lead plaintiff William L. Finazzo claimed he lent his friend a vehicle, who drove it to and parked it at the Granite City Wal-Mart on April 20, 2012. The friend was then arrested inside the store by Granite City police.

Granite City filed a motion to dismiss Feb. 6, stating the plaintiff failed to state a cause of action and failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.

“Requiring the exhaustion of administrative remedies allows the administrative agency to fully develop and consider the facts of the cause before it,” according to the motion to dismiss.

Granite City Police arrested Finazzo’s friend inside Wal-Mart, not near the vehicle, the complaint states.

The vehicle was not being used at the time of the arrest, when it was lawfully parked, according to the lawsuit. The suit claims the city has a policy of towing vehicles, incident to an arrest, though the vehicle 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 in excess of what other competing companies in the open market charge.

Defendant BAP Recovery also filed a motion to dismiss, stating Granite City is immune from the lawsuit, and that plaintiff’s recovery is barred because he contributed to his own injury. BAP claims the plaintiff “failed to exhaust any and all administrative remedies as provided for by statute,” the motion to dismiss states.

BAP states it acted “in good faith on behalf of the City of Granite City in towing any all vehicles requested.”

Philip J. Lading of Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard represent BAP Recovery.

Alvin Paulson of Becker, Paulson, Hoerner & Thompson represents the City of Granite City.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 12-L-696

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