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TexLaw, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 4430
Experience:  Lead trial/International commercial attorney licensed 11 yrs
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My car broke down and was towed to a Pep Boys Garage. The

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My car broke down and was towed to a Pep Boys Garage. The mechanic at Pep Boys checked it out and said that it needed a new engine. My wife, who had been driving it at the time it broke down, asked if we could keep it on their lot until we figured out whether to get it fixed there or towed back home. the mechanic gave a verbal agreement. While we researched what we could do, the car remained on their lot for a month. I admit that this is longer than it should have been there.

However, I drove to the Pep Boys this weekend to discuss what to do with the car and it was gone. The manager had it towed to an impound lot as an "abandoned vehicle". My and I were never notified (by phone, email, or letter) that we needed to remove the car or else they would have it impounded.

the impound lot says it will cost approximately $900 to release the car plus $35 each day it remains on the lot. there will be a towing expense on top of this. We have asked Pep Boys to pay this and get it back to their lot where we will tow it from there.

What are my rights in this situation?

Thank you for your question and I'm sorry to hear about this situation.

Did you leave the keys of the car with the store or did you lock the car up and take the keys with you?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I locked the car and took the keys. The engine no longer functions so the car can not be driven.

You have a difficult situation.

Leaving the vehicle there for a month without checking on it and without letting Pep Boys know what was going on is mostly likely damning in your case.

However, the argument you could put forward is based on the law of bailment.

A bailment is "the relation created through the transfer of the possession of goods or chattels, by a person called the bailor to a person called the bailee, without a transfer of ownership, for the accomplishment of a certain purpose, whereupon the goods or chattels are to be dealt with according to the instructions of the bailor". Dobie on Bailment & Carriers as quoted in Refining Co. v. Harvester Co., 173 Md. 404, 414 (1938). . . .
"To constitute a bailment there must be an existing subject-matter, a contract with reference to it which involves possession of it by the bailee, delivery, actual or constructive, and acceptance, actual or constructive." Refining Co. at 415.
Once the bailment relationship is proven certain responsibilities flow from the relationship. The bailee in accepting possession of the bailed property assumes the duty of exercising reasonable care in protecting it. Hambleton v. McGee, 19 Md. 43 (1862).

So, the argument would go that because Pep Boys accepted the vehicle, they were responsible for exercising reasonable car in protecting it. They failed to exercise that reasonable care by not contacting you to ask you to remove it and having it towed instead. The tow and storage charges are your damages.

This will be a very difficult argument to win in a court. They may respond back that when you leave a vehicle at a garage, if you do not pay them, they have a right to charge you storage fees. This argument is supported by state law as well.

I suggest you contact Pep Boys and make this argument with them. Tell them that they were negligent by not contacting you before having the car towed and thus are partially responsible for the charges. Tell them if they do not help you out, then you will be forced to sue.

If they do not cave, you are going to have to bite the bullet and pay the charges to get the car out. Then you will have to sue them for the rest.

Regardless, if you do not remove the car from the tow yard, the towing company will have a legal right to foreclose a lien on the car and become its legal owners in order to satisfy the charges. In other words, the towing company gets paid no matter what.

Please let me know if you have any further questions. Please also kindly consider rating my answer positively so that I am compensated by the website for my work on your question. Rating positively does not cause an additional charge and does not prevent us from further discussing your questions.

Best Regards,
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

You stated that "when you leave a vehicle at a garage, if you do not pay them, they have a right to charge you storage fees". Does the fact that I paid Pep Boys for their service they provided when they inspected the car and determined that the engine was dead count?

Yes, that helps your argument out. You paid them to do the inspection. They told you that additional work needed to be done. You said I'm going to think it through, they said ok. The problem is still that you left it for a month.

When you leave a car at a garage, the garage is legally entitled to charge you storage fees. However, I think you have an argument for negligence here because they did not contact you to tell you to move your car and instead had it towed causing you to incur additional charges.

If they don't agree to at least help you out on the charges, then you will have to sue them in small claims court for the rest.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you.

You are welcome.

Please let me know if you have any further question.

Please also do not forget to rate my answer positively. I'm not paid at all until you do (the website keeps all your money).

Good Luck,
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

If it goes to small claims court, the impound lot is still going to charge their daily rate. So if I lose, I am responsible for the amount that has accumulated. If I win, even in part, Pep Boys would have to pick up at least some of the tab that has accumulated. Is that correct?

Yes, but the smart thing to do would be to go ahead and get it out of the lot now so that the charges don't keep increasing.

You want to minimize the risk that the court will say that you did not "mitigate" your damages (by getting the car out), and that you were contributorily negligent but leaving it in for longer. A party that increases its own damages may not recover for those damages to the extent it causes the increase.
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