Wrongful Towing

Who can be Held Liable for a Wrongfully Towed Vehicle?

By November 11, 2021 No Comments

 

By Ryan Sawal

On August 18, 2021, the Third District Court of Appeal handed down its decision in Lacayo v. Versailles Gardens I Condominium Association, Inc. Lacayo involved an individual (the “Plaintiff”) whose car had been immobilized by a Miami-based booting company while parked in Versailles Gardens’ (the “complex owner”) complex.

Plaintiff sued both the booting company and the complex owner, Versailles Gardens for violations of Miami-Dade County Ordinance section 30-479. Section 30-479 requires that “[a]ny person who improperly causes a vehicle to be immobilized shall be liable to the vehicle owner or his authorized representative for the costs of the services provided, any damages result[ing] from the immobilization, and the immobilization and attorney’s fees.”[1] Plaintiff alleged that both the owner of the complex and the booting company should be held liable because, at the time when it immobilized his vehicle, the booting company was acting as an agent of the complex owner. Plaintiff’s complaint went on to allege that the immobilization was unlawful because the complex did not have the proper signage to put vehicle owners on notice that their vehicles were subject to immobilization.

The Third District Court of Appeal held that the Ordinance plainly stated that “[a]ny person who improperly causes a vehicle to be immobilized shall be liable to the vehicle owner.” The Court also noted that the Ordinance specifically referred to a “person providing immobilization services” elsewhere. Upon this reasoning, the court held that according to the plain language of the statute, both the booting company and the owner of the complex were liable for failure to comply with the ordinance because they were “person[s] who improperly cause[d] a vehicle to be immobilized.”

This holding helps clarify who can be held liable for illegal immobilization and towing in South Florida.

Specifically, in Miami-Dade County, the Illegal Towing Ordinances (§30-474 – § 30-475) mirror the Illegal Immobilization Ordinance (§30-479). Similar to the Illegal Immobilization Ordinance, the Miami-Dade Illegal Towing Ordinance requires that “[a]ny person who improperly causes a vehicle to be immobilized shall be liable to the vehicle owner or his authorized representative for the cost of the services provided, any damages results from the immobilization, and the immobilization and attorney’s fees.”[2] Also similar to the Illegal Immobilization Ordinance, the Miami-Dade Illegal Towing Ordinance also separately references the “person providing towing services” in its language.

As a result of Lacayo, there is now a binding precedent in Miami-Dade County to hold both the agent and the principal involved in illegal immobilization and illegal towing cases liable for wrongfully immobilizing/towing your vehicle.

If you believe that your vehicle has been wrongfully immobilized or towed, contact the law office of Ayala Law P.A. at (305) 570-2208 eduardo@ayalalawpa.com. Any person who improperly causes a vehicle to be immobilized shall be liable to the vehicle owner or his authorized representative for the cost of the services provided, any damages resulting from the immobilization, and the immobilization and attorney’s fees.

[1] Miami-Dade County, Fla., Code § 30-479(14).

[2] Miami-Dade County, Fla., Code § 30-475(f).

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