You’re uninvited

Tow-truck drivers are either saviors or serpents. There is no in-between, in most eyes. 

If your car leaves you stranded on the Interstate, you rejoice when those yellow lights arrive. Hero. If, on the other hand, you leave your car unattended in a restricted public parking lot, you recoil when those yellow lights disappear – with your car. Crook.

You might wonder how a private company is permitted take a vehicle without anyone’s permission. Then, when the rightful owner shows up to claim the vehicle, the private company accepts only limited methods of payment, i.e., cash. Usually a Sheriff or Police Chief authorizes this type of ransom exercise. The “nonconsent tow” business is lucrative if you can get it, especially if you can keep competitors off the chief’s tow-rotation list. It’s so lucrative, in fact, that you might make a federal case of an executive decision to remove your company from the tow-rotation list. 

Today the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued this unpublished decision. The plaintiffs each own tow-truck companies that were removed from tow-rotation lists maintained by the police departments of the cities of Bryan and College Station, Texas. Anyway, the court of appeals upheld the district court’s denial of the preliminary injunction, in which the tow-companies were trying to stay on the “nonconsent” tow-rotation list pending the litigation. At this stage in the litigation the tow companies simply have not demonstrated they have a property interest in remaining on the coveted rotation. Stay tuned.

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