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Towing

Do You Have to be the Owner of a Car to Sue for Damages After an Illegal Tow?

By July 25, 2022September 12th, 2022No Comments

Imagine that you borrowed your spouse’s vehicle to do some errands. You park at a commercial plaza with no visible tow-away signs. After you are finished shopping, your car is not there; it has been towed.

You contact an illegal towing firm to file a lawsuit. The towing company then presents as a defense that your lawsuit should be dismissed because you are not the owner of the vehicle?

Will towing company defense succeed?

It depends, literally, on the judge.

The towing statute (located at Fla. Stat. §715.07) speaks throughout its text of the “registered owner or other legally authorized person in control of that vehicle.” In fact, the towing statute uses this phrasing 10-times. Counties and cities throughout Florida have enacted ordinances with similar language including, not only the owner, but any person with authority to use the vehicle. This makes sense, because it is not uncommon that a driver is driving a vehicle in which he or she is not in the title of it.

You would think that that’s it. It is so obvious that you have a right to sue under Fla. Stat. §715.07, even if you are not the owner. As it is usual in litigation, defense counsels find creative ways to argue otherwise. It is not uncommon for defense lawyers to argue that the towing statute of §715.07 only provides a cause of action for the owner of the vehicle.

The reason they argue this, is because in section (4) of 715.07—the part that gives a right to damages—the Florida legislature used the words “owner or lessee” as opposed to “registered owner or other legally authorized person in control of that vehicle.” This interpretation leads to the conclusion that towing companies are immune from liability—and are permitted to not comply with §715.07—as long as they did it to a car that was driven by someone other than the owner.

Fortunately, the minority of judges only buy into this argument, and most courts will accept that non-owner drivers also are permitted to sue if they otherwise meet the conditions for an action.

For more information about illegal towing, contact an experienced wrongful towing attorney in Florida at 305-570-2208.

You can also email wrongful towing attorney Eduardo A. Maura at eduardo@ayalalawpa.com.

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