Judge: Towing Co. Should Not Have Sold Deployed Sailor's Jeep

Nearly five years after having his Jeep sold without his knowledge or approval by a towing company while he was deployed on a U.S. Navy ship, an enlisted man is finally getting a bit of justice.

Back in 2007, he was transferred to a base in Norfolk, VA, and began renting an apartment in town with his wife. He had told the management of his apartment complex that if he was deployed, his wife would likely move back to their other home in Florida.

He registered his Jeep with the apartment complex and listed his wife’s name as an emergency contact. So all should have been just fine when he was deployed in March 2007 and his wife headed south sans Jeep.

But come May 2007, the complex was on the phone with the tow service, which hauled away the Jeep and then sold it after it went unclaimed for 35 days.

According to court documents, the tow service’s lien on the vehicle was $1,200 but it made a nice profit by selling the Jeep for $4,500.

Problem is, the Jeep should never have been towed in the first place. And neither the apartment complex nor the tow company contacted the sailor or his wife, and the tow folks skipped the whole getting-a-court-order thing before enforcing its lien.

The sailor’s case had originally been dismissed but was brought back to life when the 4th Circuit retroactively applied the Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010.

On its second go through the court system, the judge sided with the sailor, saying his “ownership of the vehicle at the time of the alleged conversion is undisputed,” and that while the tow company “may have mistakenly believed that it had a legal right to re-title the Jeep… the defendant had no legal right to take title to the Jeep without first obtaining a court order, its acquisition of the vehicle constitutes the wrongful exercise of dominion or control over the plaintiff’s property, depriving the plaintiff of possession.”

Tow Service Taken to Task Over Sailor’s Jeep [Courthouse News]