At Trial, Va. Attorney General Calls Advanced Towing Actions “Predatory” and “Illegal” – ARLnow

Virginia Lawyer Widespread Mark Herring’s lawsuit in the direction of Advance Towing, sizey accUtilized by Lots of predatory towing, finally went to trial this week.

All by way of two days of arguments, the AG’s office honed in on the towing agency for whOn they thought-about to to be unsafe towing applys, overstepping their authority, and permitting unregistered drivers to tow.

Saying that each the county and consumers don’t have a lot recourse on these issues, Assistant Lawyer Widespread Erin Witte made The objective thOn the obligation was on the Widespreadwealth To maintain Superior Towing accountable.

“If we don’t do it, it gained’t happen,” she said during her opening arguments and Chatting with Chief Decide William Newman.

The AG’s office is looking for an injunction To finish Superior Towing’s “ilauthorized applys,” restitution for consumers, plus civil penalties, and attorney’s prices And prices.

Whereas the case was initially Alleged to be wrapped up inside two days, Decide Newman dominated To permit it To enhance to A third day for closing arguments on Oct. 20. A selection by the judge Is predicted shortly after that.

It was again in June 2020 when the Widespreadwealth of Virginia filed a lawsuit in the direction of Superior Towing for conduct the state deemed to be “frequently predatory, aggressive, overreverying and ilauthorized.” However, it took 16 months of movements, requests for information, and withdrawn trial dates to get So far.

It’s undisputed that Superior Towing’s methods have angered scores of drivers, unjoyful with being towed, collectively with former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry, Amazon supply drivers, and completely differents. One particular person has even Arrange and, for years, maintained An internet website devoted to exposing alleged wrongdoing by Superior, after his Jeep was reportedly damaged while being towed in 2016.

Superior has argued repeatedly that It is offering a needed service by towing automobiles That are trespassing on particular personal parking tons. However these being towed nonetheless frequently vent frustration, typically prompting calls to police over disputes On the Superior lot in Ballston.

Typically it goes further. In January 2020, an Uber driver making an try to drive out of the lot with out paying struck proprietor John O’Neill On The agency’s lot. All by way of his testimony during this trial, O’Neill referred to this as his “accident” and said it has triggered him extreme medical factors.

The agency’s attorney Chap Petersen, who May even be a Virginia state Senator, acknowledged that There are A lot Of mom and father that discover themselves pretty upset Together with his shopper.

“This lawsuIt isn’t about a lot. There have been 40,000 tows in Arlington [since 2017]. That’s Lots of unjoyful people, constructive.” said Petersen. “However [these tows] have beenn’t ilauthorized.”

However the question earlier than the courtroom Is whether or not or not the actions of Superior Towing Are actually ilauthorized regardless of The agency’s assertions Fairly The completely different.

The events-sizey trial examined Fairly A pair of alleged dangerous applys of Superior Towing, collectively with towing of police automobiles, towing with out right authority, not rightly securing automobiles while towing, The safety and professionalism of Superior Towing staff, if contracts with rightty house proprietors have been rightly signed and Up So far, the registration standing of drivers, and whether or not towing signage and markings have been clear enough for consumers.

To make their case, the AG’s office launched a parade of witnesses to the stand. Amongst them have been a quantity of Arlington County Cops, Superior Towing staff, and Individuals Who’ve had their automotives towed.

The Cops testified That they had written Fairly A pair of tickets Over the previous a quantity of years to Superior Towing, associated to imright towing As a Outcome of of safety straps not being utilized And by no implys securing the load rightly.

Consumers spoke at size Regarding their experiences being towed. One witness recounted having her automotive towed from her personal co-op residence Parking lot.

Although she finally acquired her automotive again with out paying a payment, she recounted how a lot time and stress it triggered her.

“I used to be devasaid,” she said on the witness stand.

Several witnesses spoke Regarding the “unprofessional” interactions That they had with Superior Towing staff, collectively with one woman who said she was aggressively accosted On The agency’s tow yard, which made her really paymentl unsafe.

Whereas The agency operates by way ofout Arlington County As properly as to in parts of Fairfax County, Lots of time was spent on their towing authority and applys associated to a Wilson Blvd Parking lot shut to Ballston that’s Utilized by Gold’s Clinic, &Pizza, and bicycle retailer Spokes And so on.

Native residents on the witness stand (some displaying shut toly) recounted their events of working into Definitely one Of these companies, solely to have their automobiles towed inside minutes.

At question have been parking spots have been particularally marked to be out there For patrons of particular companies. If, For event, a buyer parks in a Gold’s Clinic spot, but goes into the &pizza throughout the Parking lot, Which might make their car eligible to be towed.

The protection argued that this apply was accredited by the rightty proprietor, in a 2005 contract and an updated 2017 contract.

On the stand, the lot proprietor said this particular situation, As properly as To A few of the towing situations she requested of Superior Towing, have been by no implys An factor of a written contract, but have been made by way of verbal statements, e-mail, or textual content material. All by way of further testimony from each the rightty proprietor and O’Neill, it was admitted thOn the 2017 contract detailing such situations wasn’t signed for a Time interval.

When It Will undoubtedly was signed by each halfies, the contract was againdated To six weeks earlier. This againdating acquired here as A minimal Of 1 shopper was requesting to see A duplicate of the contract, which Is Alleged to be maintained for public inspection in accordance with county code.

When the rightty proprietor was requested if she was joyful with the service that Superior Towing had currentd to the rightty since 2005, she anshave beend, “for In all probability the most half, sure.”

Furtherextra, at odds wAs a Outcome of the readability of signage and stencil markings Within the Parking lot, with the AG’s office offering photographic proof thOn the stencilings on the asphalt Weren’t clear to consumers, notably at Evening time.

On the second day of the trial, the AG’s office conagencyed extra-current movies of what it described as unsafe and imright towing from The hearth lane of the particular personally-personaled driveway subsequent to P.F. Chang’s restaurant in Ballston. Lots of the automobiles towed besizeyed to drivers choosing up their orders or working for Uber Eats and completely different supply apps.

The level was To level out that, regardless of the AG’s lawsuit being filed final summer time, Superior Towing’s actions continued.

Several completely different gadgets acquired here out during trial, collectively with the studying of a earlier deposition from A refined Towing worker By which it was said that tow truck drivers acquire $35 For every car they tow and thOn there’s no written worker guide.

What’s extra, Superior Towing Does not require drivers To current The agency with their updated registration information from the Virginia Dehalfment of Felony Justice Providers, the AG’s office alleged. An Superior Towing worker testified that she has footage of All of the drivers registrations on her particular personal Mobile telephone.

Superior proprietor John O’Neill furtherly took to the witness stand twice, first questioned by the AG’s office and, then, by his protection attorney. Witte went over agency data, contracts, driver registrations, and requested whether or not O’Neill knew his drivers have been towing with out rightly securing safety straps, finishangering public safety. At one level, O’Neill appeared to Find your self to be overcome with emovements and paused talking for a quantity of moments.

The Assistant AG furtherly requested O’Neill To debate his involvement with the county’s Trespass Towing Advisory Board. He acknowledged that he sat on it for years, but was currently requested To go away As a Outcome of of this lawsuit.

When referred to as to the stand by his attorney, O’Neill testified that has by no implys as quickly as inspired drivers to tow unsafely. In the event that they did acquire a ticket for not rightly securing a car with safety straps, he disciplined them.

“I make them go house and don’t pay for that tow,” he said, while furtherly noting this occurred as currently as final week.

Towards The prime of the second day, the protection made a movement to strike The complete lawsuit based mostly on lack of proof that somefactor ilauthorized was carried out. The judge denied the movement, but did strike a portion relating to the towing of police automobiles.

Whereas closing arguments are behind held till Wednesday, Oct. 20, each the AG’s office and the protection had some halfing phrases As a Outcome of the second day reveryed its conclusion.

Petersen referred to as the lawsuit “overkill” and that he believed “the office of the Lawyer Widespread Desires to place my shopper out of enterprise.”

Witte made the case thOn The requirements the state, county, and authorized contracts put in place Want to be upheld and the alleged violations by Superior Towing Have to have recourse.

“These requirements Have to imply one factor,” she said. “They Want to.”