State Supremes Say Dallas PD Doesn't Have to Pay Tow Company For Seizing, Selling Its Cars

Categories: Crime, The Courts
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Speaking of the Supremes ...

In January 2010 we listened in as the Supreme Court of Texas heard oral arguments in the case of City of Dallas. v. VSC, LLC, which is now close to a decade old. To sum up: In '02, tow company VSC was in possession of 326 cars the Dallas Police Department said had been "reported stolen, had been involved in car-jackings, or had altered serial numbers." At which point the police department drove down to VSC's storage facility and took the cars without compensating the tow company -- because as far as DPD was concerned, they were evidence, case closed. DPD eventually sold the cars and pocketed the dough-re-mi.

VCS argued that DPD couldn't just take -- and sell! -- the cars they'd rightfully towed, especially 47 vehicles that became the very specific subject of this litigation. The court of appeals said: You know, you've got a point there. At which point the city took the case to the state Supreme Court.

So, now, to the results: On Friday, Texas Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson and five of his colleagues told VCS it's outta luck:
We expect our government to retrieve stolen property and return it to the rightful owner. What happens, though, when a person claims an interest in property the government has seized? In this case, the City of Dallas seized vehicles, which it alleged were stolen, from a company that was entitled to petition for their return. ... Instead of pursuing its statutory remedy, the company sued, alleging that its interest in those vehicles had been taken without just compensation. We hold that the availability of the statutory remedy precludes a takings claim. We reverse the court of appeals' judgment and render judgment dismissing this suit.
But Justice Dale Wainwright, backed up by two fellow justices, disagrees:
I would hold that there are fact questions as to whether and how the City disposed of the vehicles at issue and affirm the trial court's denial of the plea to the jurisdiction. I therefore respectfully dissent.
Read his opinion here. Quick, before someone snatches and sells it.

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7 comments
Montemalone
Montemalone

This is a hard one. (she says with a smile)

Doesn't sound too very bidness friendly, tho it's hard to have any sympathy at all for a tow company.

More interesting is the back story on how did so many stolen cars end up down there in the first place?

Allegra
Allegra

While I do not pity towing companies, not in the least, this seems to be a violation of rights.  The towing company did not knowingly collect cars as evidence for the police department (or surely they would be on a retainer to do so), but instead towed cars as a matter of doing business.  For the PD to then come and collect these cars and then to SELL the cars at a profit without paying the towing company at all for the services it provided seems to be stealing services.  At the very least, the towing company should receive a reimbursement of its actual costs incurred to tow those cars.

nffcnnr
nffcnnr

Who edits these articles?

Halldecker
Halldecker

It's very difficult to feel any great sorrow for a towing company that gets a boot shoved up its ...

JesseHughey
JesseHughey

...and I copy edit them, usually after they're already posted. Sometimes quite some time afterward, particularly on our production day. Even more particularly on production days during short weeks, especially with the kind of corn-dog hangover I have right now.

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