High Court Rules Against Tow Shop

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Potential Game-Changing Decision for Industries

WASHINGTON, DC  l  According to a just-released ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, federal trucking laws do not prevent a New Hampshire man from seeking a state claim against an area towing outfit, reversing a lower court’s interpretation.

The precedent is expected to bring much broader consumer protection in recovery work, trucking and the airline industry.

The original case began in 2004 at an apartment complex in upstate New Hampshire. According to court papers, the management requested the removal of a Honda Civic after it wasn’t moved during a snowstorm, as required by their guidelines.

The owner of the vehicle, Robert Pelkey, was seriously ill and bed-ridden at the time, and would ultimately be hospitalized.  While in surgery for a foot amputation, Pelkey suffered a heart attack.  As a result, his recovery and hospitalization became extended.

During this period, Pelkey’s lawyer says he reached out to both the property owners and the tow firm involved, Dan’s City Auto of Manchester.  He claims the tow shop told him the vehicle was scheduled for public auction two days later.

Court affidavits indicate that Pelkey, through his lawyer, requested the sale to be stopped.  The vehicle was ultimately auctioned, and no compensation was made to Pelkey.

Previously the case had been tossed out on grounds that lawsuits may not be brought in consumer protection cases against a “tow-motor carrier” per the FAA Authorization Act of 1994.  That New Hampshire Supreme Court decision was appealed to the high court.

The Supreme Court heard arguments on the case in March.


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