Robert Pelkey's car was towed from his apartment complex for failure to move it during a snowstorm. At the time, Mr. Pelkey was quite ill and eventually was sent to the hospital to have his left foot amputated. When he returned home and was made aware that his car was towed, he had his attorney track down the car at Dan’s City towing and ask for it back. When they disposed of the car, Mr. Pelkey sued for violations of New Hampshire’s consumer protection laws and common law negligence. Dan’s City claimed that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act ("FAAAA") controlled motor carriers and preempted any state law claims. The New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed the lower court and agreed with Mr. Pelkey that his state law remedies were not preempted because they dealt with the disposal of property and debt collection on a lien, rather than the "services" of the towing company. Dan's City contends these actions are incidental to their towing and storage of the vehicle and therefore are properly construed as services of their company. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve a circuit split on the scope of preemption under the FAAAA. How the Court rules in this case will have great significance for both vehicle owners and the towing industry.
Whether state statutory, common law negligence, and consumer protection act enforcement actions against a tow-motor carrier based on state law regulating the sale and disposal of a towed vehicle are related to a transportation service provided by the carrier and are thus preempted by 49 U.S.C. § 14501(c)(1).
Are state law claims of negligence and consumer fraud against a towing company for having a car towed and eventually disposed of to pay towing and storage fees preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (“FAAAA”)?
- Paul Feely, Fight Over Manchester Towing Heads to Top Court, New Hampshire Union Leader, Feb. 28, 2013.
- Joel A. Webber, UPCOMING- Does the Federal Aviation Authorization Act of 1994 (“FAAAA”) federally preempt state consumer fraud statute and negligence claims against towing company that moved plaintiff’s car during a snowstorm without his permission?, Transport Business Law & Compliance Blog, Feb. 2, 2013.
- National Chamber Litigation Center, Dan’s City Used Cars, Inc. v. Pelkey.