Who’s Responsible? “my car was ticketed and towed at the behest of a contractor who was renovating a house across the street.”

Photo by PoPville flickr user philliefan99

“Dear PoPville,

Wonder if anyone in PoPville have experience with pressing the city for reimbursement for expenses incurred with private companies. Basically, my car was ticketed and towed at the behest of a contractor who was renovating a house across the street. I was headed out of town for a week and I parked outside the no parking signs he had erected for more than a year.
I documented that my car was legally parked and the ticket was dismissed.

I sought reimbursement for the $220 in towing and storage fees since the ticket that provided the basis for the towing was dismissed. Now DC says that they have no responsibility because the contractor called the towing firm. However, the ticket clearly is checked “towing requested.”

Even tough it was towed by a private entity, isn’t DC responsible for authorizing the tow?
And since the original ticket was dismissed is DC not responsible for the towing and storage fees?”

42 Comment

  • Accountering

    You need to go after the contractor. You are going to find it will be very difficult (nor do I think you have a case – they didn’t tow you) to get reimbursed by the city.
    What I would do is start with a call to the contracting company. They will likely rebuff this. I would then send a demand letter to both the towing company, and the contractor (certified mail) demanding the refund you by X date, and if not you will file suit the following day in small claims court. If and when they do not refund you, file suit in small claims court the next day. I would file for a good bit more than the $220 though, as they likely wont show over $220, and it will be a pain in the ass for $220 to collect. I would add $300 or $500 to the $220 when you file suit.
    Good luck! Keep us updated!

    • Agree with all this, and that you are in the right. But you should also know that only half of all small claims court awards are actually paid.

  • I agree, file a claim seeking reimbursement for lost wages or the value of leave time taken in the course of fighting this, the cost of interim transportation until you got your vehicle back, any damages incurred, and the cost of all legal fees, on top of the $220 already lost. It may also help to do some research to see if the contractor has all necessary permits for the work they are doing across the street. You may be surprised and this could be your ace in the pocket to present in court, if they are found to be working in violation. Good luck!

  • Oh come on, it’s just $220. Most people spend more than that on drinks on a night out. May as well save yourself all the trouble of filing and move on.

    • “Most”? Wow. You must know lots of rich people.

    • Glad to see you volunteering your money to make the OP whole.

    • Accountering

      Most people have some backbone, and don’t enjoy when someone else screws them. He was improperly towed, and deserves to address this. In a civilized society, this means court (if the contractor is unwilling to pony up and admit he was wrong)

    • gotryit

      Huh? I spent less than $200 on an awesome anniversary dinner, including drinks and a nice tip!
      PS. Sorry hun.

    • Most people spend $220 on a night out drinking in NYC not DC. So you are saying everyone should just accept it when they get ripped off because they can afford it?

    • you sound super lazy and you sound like you have a drinking problem. First, this contractor should pay the $220 plus time lost and expenses because they were wrong. Second, I would like to know where you are going to spend more than $220 on a night out on drinks.

      • dude, it’s easy. A couple of rounds for a couple of friends at $12+/drink + tip and it’s easily $220.

        • Dude, sure, you could assume collectively that everyone in Dupont combined spends $100,000 a night in drinks. But let’s be realistic, we’re not talking about a collective situation. You sound ridiculous.

        • Totally, dude. It’s like only 8 and a half Manhattans at Bourbon, or as I like to call it, a Tuesday night.

        • Obviously math is not your strong subject.

          A couple (2) rounds for a couple (2) friends, plus self, is 6 drinks. Those drinks would have to cost $37 each to add up to $220.

    • @Woodly William, the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

    • Uh, that would put me behind on rent/tuition/cell phone/utilities/etc… not everyone can afford to be screwed $220. Heck, $20 is a lot to me right now.

    • You people are too easy.

  • But isn’t DC there to enforce the law IF necessary? So the contractor requested the tow, but then the tow truck showed up and just towed the OP? Sounds like DC was just as incompetent because they should have looked where OP was parked and told the contractor to take a hike as he/she was legally parked. DC is so absurd sometimes.

    • clevelanddave

      I believe the contractor would have called the towing company. The tow company in DC can only do their work after MPD has ticketed the car. I do not believe MPD would have ticketed the car.

  • wait – I’m a bit confused – did DC tow the car or only issue a ticket? It sounds like a towing firm did the towing. Either way, pursue the contractor, not the city or the towing company. The towing company should still get paid for work done, just not by you.

    • It’s the city who issues the signs that say do not park during x hours for x days. When someone parks in those spots (during those hours/days) you call 911 and the cops show up and try to run the plates/contact the owner. If they can’t then they call the tow, which it’s my understanding that it’s the MPD tow trucks. They’re especially busy during Nats games in the Navy Yard area…they ticket and then tow your car. It’s not a private towing company.

      • You call 311 unless it’s an emergency. Please do not call 911 and waste people’s time with parking complaints. And it’s DPW that typically tows vehicles, not MPD.

        • Not true. My friend called 311 for the very issue and they told her she MUST call 911 to have it dealt with. Sure enough, that’s what worked. Furthermore, I called 311 to report construction/insane noise at 11:30pm at night and they told me to call 911. I said it’s not an emergency and they said it doesn’t matter, call 911 for EVERYTHING.

        • 911 is for all police calls- emergency and non emergency. It’s been this way for years.

          311 is for general city information or services.

          • What is it going to take for people to stop with the 311 non-emergency??? Like you said, it’s been YEARS that 911 has been for ALL police, fire, and ambulance calls. Even non-emergency ones. Yet every time someone says 911, someone else says “nuh-uh, 311” and then we have the whole conversation over again. Yeesh.

  • Something similar happened to me. I talked to the contractor. When it became clear that I was parked outside the signs and a mistake had been made, the contractor reimbursed me. Try that first. Litigation is the last resort when talking things over doesn’t work.

  • I’m assuming the car was towed by the city? If that’s the case I’d say you also have an argument with the city because it was their responsibility to check to see if the car was legally parked or not. For example, I could call the city to tow a car in front of my house but if was legally parked then would DC still tow the vehicle? I dealt with a similiar situation last year in which the city towed and impounded my vehicle mistakenly. I went to hearing that same morning and the reviewer dismissed all the tickets, fees, etc. Also, why did they impound your vehicle? Usually they will simply courtesy tow you around the corner as long as you don’t have oustanding tickets, etc.

    • DC outsources its towing to private companies. Once the city issues a ticket, the contractor (or whomever has the signs posted) can call any one of the city-authorized tow operators and the car will be gone. It’s a scam since there’s now a lot of finger pointing about who is responsible for coughing up the amount paid to the tow company for essentially stealing the OP’s car. I like the idea of slapping both the contractor and tow company with a $500+ suit in small claims court. It’s not hard to file there, and a big number will make them show up.

      • Basic legal principle: the entity that hired the actor, is legally responsible for the actor’s actions, unless the actor was acting outside the contract (the legal phrase for this is “detour and frolic,” who says the law can’t be fun?).

  • I was faced with (and resolved) a nearly identical situation. First lesson: every relevant part of DC government is clueless and acts like this situation it is more rare than a talking unicorn. Second lesson: you must set aside all notions of fairness and law. Third lesson: litigation or threats of litigation should be a last resort. I contacted my city council member and Daniel Scott (who manages all things towing at DPW, including private tow companies). He has no authority to compel a towing company to return your money for towing fess from a dismissed ticket, but he did help convince the tower to give me back my money. Although adjudication services should reimburse you for towing fees related to a dismissed ticket (it is their fault after all) I’m pretty sure that would never happen (you can’t get blood from a stoned idiot). In your case, you might start with your city council member and Daniel Scott, and hopefully they will support your polite request to the contractor.

    • Although I completely agree with you that DC denies this doesn’t happen frequently (it really does), you should have a good chance w/ adjudication services to have all the fees wiped. At least I did after they incorrectly towed my vehicle.

      While DC does outsource SOME of it’s towing, that’s not always the case. Additionally like you said, the city issues the ticket. So if the city issues the ticket incorrectly, than yes they are responsible for coughing up the money to the tow company.

      • First of all, you can’t go to adjudication services because there is no ticket to dispute (it was already dismissed). Second, even if you could get an audience, it would go like this: You -“I have a receipt for $220 from DirtyLot Towing to get my car back, which was towed due to your dismissed ticket.” Examiner- “So what, you didn’t pay us any money, so we don’t have it to give back.” You – “But you are responsible, so you should pay me $220.” Examiner – “Duhhhhh, Ummmmm… next up, number 1287587.”

    • Many thanks. This appears to fall into a crevice of city adjudication, because how could someone issue a blatantly false parking ticket, right? I envision the chummy contractor who sat on his ass in his F-ginormous truck all day slipping a ticketing officer a crisp Ulysses Grant to clear way for more worker parking. (Full disclosure: I brought his crew a small cooler full of beer on a hot July day) After all, he was permitted for a “roll off dumpster,” which was 20 feet, but was blocking off 61 feet. Yes, of course I measured. And he didn’t need the extra 40 feet to back up a vehicle to haul stuff away since they simply transferred debris to a dumptruck parked parallel.
      DC took almost four months to rule on/dismiss my complaint so of course the renovations are complete and contractor long gone.
      Speaking with the case supervisor was like that scene from White Men Can’t Jump:
      Her “we’re not responsible, we didn’t tow the car, the contractor called a private company. You need to contact them.”
      Me: “Miss, nothing of this would have occurred had DC not issued a ticket that authorized my car to be towed. That ticket has since been dismissed. Meaning, the ticket should never have been issued, and my car not towed.”
      Her: “We waived the ticket and you didn’t have to pay for it.”
      Me: “That’s not accurate. I proved to a city administrator that the ticket was issued in error and the ticket was then dismissed. So now, I am seeking reimbursement for the expenses I incurred from the towing and storage charges.”
      Her: “You need to speak with the contractor or the towing company, since he’s the one who requested the tow.”
      Me: “But the city authorized the tow.”
      Me: “I think we have a case where you’re hearing me, but you are not listening.”

      Anyway, if I’m successful in getting reimbursed I’ll open up a tab for $220. Anybody who drops that much on drinks in an evening in DC or anywhere is not invited.

      • This is so ridiculous and infuriating! Even more so because it apparently happens a lot. This is where it would definitely be worth it to bring it to court on principle alone! The fact that DC issues these tickets without looking (or caring) whether the person is legally parked is absurd. Once again these comments make me so glad I have off street parking.

      • Sounds just like the situation happening now on the 1500 block of Corcoran St. The Contractor has blocked off about 4-5 spaces with signs for a roll of dumpster. But there has not been a dumpster there in weeks. It’s really just reserved parking for all to the workers who come in to town from Virginia and Maryland.

        • I feel for those who have a hard time finding parking. But’s it no cause to abuse the system.
          I recommend reporting it to the administration that issued the parking permit. Usually local police district right? Take photos.

  • I’m not sure I agree that litigation/threats of litigation should be a last resort in this case (usually, yes, but not here). Contractors, like car dealers and a few other businesses, are threatened with lawsuits all the time and the prospect just isn’t scary to them. Filing a small claims action is cheap and easy, so if it were me I’d just go ahead and do it rather than waste more time and energy on this. I bet it’s a 50/50 shot the guy even shows up so you might even get a default judgment. Something to keep in mind, however: if you win you’re going to get the towing & storage fees, any damage done to the car (if properly documented) and any filing/service fees. You can pretty much forget about the income lost dealing with this and you can certainly forget about attorneys fees. So it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it, since a day off work might cost you more than you’ll get.

Comments are closed.