Trials & Litigation

My car was towed twice while I was working late and legally parked, lawyer's latest suit says

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car towing

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Zealous car towing has served as inspiration for a song popular in Chicago and two lawsuits filed by a lawyer in Little River, South Carolina.

Lawyer James P. Stevens Jr. of the Stevens Law Firm in South Carolina alleges that Coastline Towing and Recovery towed his car three times while he was working late and refused to bring it back or waive charges on two of those occasions, even though he was parked legally.

His latest suit, filed April 5, alleges conversion and violation of the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act. The latter claim entitles him to triple damages and attorney fees, according to Stevens. The suit also seeks to hold Coastline Towing and Recovery owner Richard Pate personally responsible for damages as the alter ego of a related company.

The first time that Stevens’ car was towed from the parking lot of his law office, the suit says, Stevens paid $200 to to get his car back.

The second time, Stevens said, he called the towing company and was able to get his car returned to him at the office. The company contacted the tow truck driver who contacted Stevens, who said he scolded the driver for towing his car while he was working. The tow truck driver returned the car and later told Stevens that his wife told him to apologize.

The last time, April 3, Stevens again demanded the return of his car, but to no avail, the suit says. Stevens was told to pay $286 plus storage charges, he said. He paid because he didn’t want to argue anymore. He noticed that the parking pass that he had on his dashboard was laying on the floor on the passenger side of the car, he said.

“I had enough, and I just filed suit against them,” Stevens told the ABA Journal. “I’ve had enough with this predatory towing.”

Stevens says a look at the public index shows “a whole line of cases where it says public sale, public sale, public sale” for Coastline Towing and Recovery. The company, he alleges, charges “an arm and a leg” for storage of towed vehicles. When people can’t pay, Stevens says, the company applies for title of their cars and sells them at public auction.

Stevens says he filed a separate suit against Coastline Towing and Recovery several years ago, when the company towed the car that his wife left in a gas station parking lot after experiencing chest pains. Stevens’ wife called an ambulance and left a note on the car explaining why she was leaving the car there.

Stevens says the towing company refused to release the car to him because the title wasn’t in his name, and there was no proof that he was married to his wife. He returned with his marriage certificate and driver’s licenses for him and his wife, but the towing company still refused to release the car, Stevens alleges. He was finally able to get the car after the sheriff’s office intervened on his behalf.

That suit settled, Stevens says. He says he does not recall the settlement amount.

A person who answered the phone at the Coastline Towing and Recovery number said comments would have to be made by Pate, and he is out of town. The employee said he didn’t know when Pate would be back, but he would give him the Journal’s message upon Pate’s return or if he calls in before that.

“He’ll be in touch with you when he gets in touch with you,” the employee said.

Hat tip to WMBF and the Myrtle Beach Sun News, which had coverage of Stevens’ latest suit.

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