Predatory towing lawsuit’s class certification being challenged by Chicago

The status of a class action lawsuit against the city of Chicago is being challenged, adding another delay to the 2019 complaint.

In December, Chicago’s appeal was granted by the Seventh Circle Court of Appeals. The city is challenging the status of a class action lawsuit brought by a group of motorists who claim the city has practiced robbery towing. A federal district court had given two groups class action status in November.

The city first asks whether the plaintiff is actually questioning the constitutionality of the state law. Rather, the city argues, the lawsuit calls into question the notification process of the towing law. Therefore, the appeal has no place in the federal court.

Second, the city is contesting the district court’s ruling that individual circumstances within the class are irrelevant in the robbery tow suit. The city of Chicago cites the case law denying class status due to individual issues overriding common issues.

Although the appeal is pending, the district court paused the class groups upon discovery. The City of Chicago argues that continued discovery “would create confusion among the public if the certification order is reversed, evicted, or changed”.

“Such confusion is undoubtedly attributed to the city and requires time and resources on the city to process complaints and respond to claims based on the confusion,” Chicago state attorneys said in the motion to continue the discovery. “Until there is certainty about the certification order, the public and class members should not be notified.”

The city also argues that responding to discovery inquiries regarding predatory towing requires significant time and expense.

These resources will be wasted unnecessarily if the Seventh Electric Circuit only partially decides in favor of the city. Also, since the injunction has been denied, there can be no harm in delaying the discovery while both parties await a final decision on class certification.

The robbery tow lawsuit was filed in July 2019 by Andrea Santiago, a senior citizen with multiple sclerosis who is wheelchair bound. Santiago accuses the city of towing their car and eventually selling it for junk without giving it due process.

Santiago owned a van that was regularly parked on the side of the road for easy access. In June 2018 the van was towed and confiscated. The complaint alleges that Santiago never received a notice in the mail warning her, describing the operation as “being towed without saying”.

The city claims it sent a notice on June 15, 2018 about the seizure of vehicles after being towed.

Meanwhile, storage fees piled up when Santiago’s daughter tried to get the van.
The lawsuit alleges the city never sent an additional notice of the upcoming vehicle disposal. Such notification is required under state law. The city sold the van to United Road Towing towing company before Santiago’s daughter could find it. This company then sold it to a junkyard for scrap.

Santiago never received any proceeds from the sale of the van, which is also required by law.

In 2005, Illinois changed the state’s vehicle code to address predatory towing.

Cities with more than 500,000 inhabitants must notify motorists that their vehicle has been towed. The Santiago lawsuit alleges that Chicago never changed its code to reflect those changes.

For more information on the lawsuit and Robbery Towing Act 2005, please visit here.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has always fought against predatory towing in the trucking industry. Mike Matousek, OOIDA’s government affairs manager, was in the ditch fighting predatory towing.

“While the definition of ‘predatory towing’ for cars and trucks can vary somewhat, there is no question that commercial vehicles are attacked by unscrupulous towers,” Matousek told Land Line. “We see it regularly across the country, including predatory boat programs, legally questionable towing services, and other forms of non-consensual towing. The Chicago Police Department seems to be tracking some of these crooked operators, but more can and must be done – not just in Chicago, but across the country. ” LL

Comments are closed.