+ Reply to Thread
Results 1 to 10 of 10
  1. #1
    ripped_off is offline Junior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    6

    Thumbs down Release of Liability issue - towing company out for blood

    First off, I live in southern California and that is where this all occured.

    A few months ago, in July '05, I sold a car to a guy for about $1700 (the car was nothing special). The sale went by the book - I made a bill of sale with all relevant information (plates, VIN, buyer/seller signatures, price, etc.), he paid me cash, we signed the title, etc. etc.

    What I failed to do was send in the Release of Liability which CA law requires the seller to do within 10 days of sale.

    Fast forward to November '05. The man I sold my car to reported his car (the one I sold him in July) stolen. 2 or 3 days later, his local police department found the car, abandoned and wrecked. The police dept. used their contracted towing company to tow the car to their lot and the car was impounded.

    A couple of days later, I received a notice in the mail from the police department/towing company, that "my" car was in their lot and was collecting fees. Immediately I knew that the current owner had never registered the car, and that was why I had received the notice.

    That very night I called the police department to discuss the matter. I was told that since the owner of the car had the title in hand with buyer and seller signatures, and a copy of the bill of sale from July, that they could release the car to him and everything would be OK. The PD called the current owner, discussed it with him, and he came down and signed and received the release paperwork for the car. I was then told by the PD that everything was set and should be OK.

    Fast forward again to early December '05. I received a notice that the car was still in the lot and had collected considerable fees. Thankfully I still had the current owner's phone number so I gave him a call. Basically he made up something about how there was never anyone at the tow yard when he went there to pick it up, and that he wanted to get it but he just hadn't gotten around to it yet.

    By that time I knew that the owner had no intention of picking up the car from the lot and paying the fees, since the car in its wrecked condition was probably worth half of what the tow and impound fees were.

    I called the tow company and spoke to the owner. I informed them of the issue. The owner told me that I was "contractually obligated" to pay the fees and that there was absolutely no way around this. I brought up the issue of how the PD had released the car to the owner - I asked, "but the PD released the car to him, and only him. Even if I came in and paid all these fees, I still wouldn't get the car because they released it to him. So why am I paying these fees if the car won't even be given to me (not that I want it)?" To which he responded with the same line about how there was nothing he could do, the law was the law, and I was going to have to pay.

    A few weeks later I received a notice that the car would be sold at auction, and if the price it fetched did not cover the amount of the fees, I would have to pay the remaining balance. At this point I figured, fine, let the car sell, it might cover the fees and I can stop dealing with this nonsense.

    Fast forward again to January '06. I received a notice from a debt collection agency on behalf of the towing company, that my bill was about $900 and I had to cought it up.

    At this point, I wrote an intelligent, thoughtful letter to both the towing company and the collection agency, stating the facts, and that I was displeased with the unethical treatment of this issue by the towing company. I stated that although I may have been listed as the legal owner and as such, to the letter of California law, would be forwarded any fees, clearly it was only the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law that I should have to pay these fees, especially when I have proof that I did sold the car. I also stated that if they continued to try to collect the fees I would pursue legal action (even though I'm not sure what I would do )

    I also attached a copy of the bill of sale to show that I do indeed have proof that I sold the car long before it ended up in their tow yard.

    Today, I received a response from the towing company, which, as I had assumed would happen, stated that they would not drop the issue and that I am, once again, "contractually obligated" to pay these fees. He (the owner of the tow company) even mentioned that he was upset that I called there practice unethical.

    Now I need to know what to do. First off, if this matter ends up before a judge, do I have a chance of winning? Personally, I find it obscene and ludicrous that I might have to pay these fees despite everything in my favor. Although I may indeed be listed as the registered owner of the car since the current owner never registered it, obviously the spirit of the law was not meant to sock the previous owner with all fees and charges so that some grubby towing company can get their money. The Release of Liability law was, in my understanding, created so that any such issue of determining who is liable in situations such as this doesn't happen, NOT so that the previous owner is automatically and without doubt, liable for everything no matter what.

    What do I do? Please help, and thanks for reading the long post.
  2. #2
    seniorjudge is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    St. Odo of Cluny Parish
    Posts
    29,533
    Quote Originally Posted by ripped_off
    First off, I live in southern California and that is where this all occured.

    A few months ago, in July '05, I sold a car to a guy for about $1700 (the car was nothing special). The sale went by the book - I made a bill of sale with all relevant information (plates, VIN, buyer/seller signatures, price, etc.), he paid me cash, we signed the title, etc. etc.

    What I failed to do was send in the Release of Liability which CA law requires the seller to do within 10 days of sale.

    Fast forward to November '05. The man I sold my car to reported his car (the one I sold him in July) stolen. 2 or 3 days later, his local police department found the car, abandoned and wrecked. The police dept. used their contracted towing company to tow the car to their lot and the car was impounded.

    A couple of days later, I received a notice in the mail from the police department/towing company, that "my" car was in their lot and was collecting fees. Immediately I knew that the current owner had never registered the car, and that was why I had received the notice.

    That very night I called the police department to discuss the matter. I was told that since the owner of the car had the title in hand with buyer and seller signatures, and a copy of the bill of sale from July, that they could release the car to him and everything would be OK. The PD called the current owner, discussed it with him, and he came down and signed and received the release paperwork for the car. I was then told by the PD that everything was set and should be OK.

    Fast forward again to early December '05. I received a notice that the car was still in the lot and had collected considerable fees. Thankfully I still had the current owner's phone number so I gave him a call. Basically he made up something about how there was never anyone at the tow yard when he went there to pick it up, and that he wanted to get it but he just hadn't gotten around to it yet.

    By that time I knew that the owner had no intention of picking up the car from the lot and paying the fees, since the car in its wrecked condition was probably worth half of what the tow and impound fees were.

    I called the tow company and spoke to the owner. I informed them of the issue. The owner told me that I was "contractually obligated" to pay the fees and that there was absolutely no way around this. I brought up the issue of how the PD had released the car to the owner - I asked, "but the PD released the car to him, and only him. Even if I came in and paid all these fees, I still wouldn't get the car because they released it to him. So why am I paying these fees if the car won't even be given to me (not that I want it)?" To which he responded with the same line about how there was nothing he could do, the law was the law, and I was going to have to pay.

    A few weeks later I received a notice that the car would be sold at auction, and if the price it fetched did not cover the amount of the fees, I would have to pay the remaining balance. At this point I figured, fine, let the car sell, it might cover the fees and I can stop dealing with this nonsense.

    Fast forward again to January '06. I received a notice from a debt collection agency on behalf of the towing company, that my bill was about $900 and I had to cought it up.

    At this point, I wrote an intelligent, thoughtful letter to both the towing company and the collection agency, stating the facts, and that I was displeased with the unethical treatment of this issue by the towing company. I stated that although I may have been listed as the legal owner and as such, to the letter of California law, would be forwarded any fees, clearly it was only the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law that I should have to pay these fees, especially when I have proof that I did sold the car. I also stated that if they continued to try to collect the fees I would pursue legal action (even though I'm not sure what I would do )

    I also attached a copy of the bill of sale to show that I do indeed have proof that I sold the car long before it ended up in their tow yard.

    Today, I received a response from the towing company, which, as I had assumed would happen, stated that they would not drop the issue and that I am, once again, "contractually obligated" to pay these fees. He (the owner of the tow company) even mentioned that he was upset that I called there practice unethical.

    Now I need to know what to do. First off, if this matter ends up before a judge, do I have a chance of winning? Personally, I find it obscene and ludicrous that I might have to pay these fees despite everything in my favor. Although I may indeed be listed as the registered owner of the car since the current owner never registered it, obviously the spirit of the law was not meant to sock the previous owner with all fees and charges so that some grubby towing company can get their money. The Release of Liability law was, in my understanding, created so that any such issue of determining who is liable in situations such as this doesn't happen, NOT so that the previous owner is automatically and without doubt, liable for everything no matter what.

    What do I do? Please help, and thanks for reading the long post.

    [url]http://forum.freeadvice.com/showthread.php?t=307640[/url]

    Quit double posting

    Cut this in half

    Ask three questions
    There are two rules for success:

    (1) Never tell everything you know.
  3. #3
    ripped_off is offline Junior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    6
    I'm just trying to make sure this gets read, I was not sure which category this should go under, since it doesn't directly fit under any of the forum topics, and I want to have someone read this ASAP.

    I spent about 45 minutes searching and reading, and I have seen 4 or 5 posts with situations almost identical to mine, unfortunately none of those received any responses at all or if they did, they were not helpful.

    edit: I would like to add to add that I did actually try to send in a release of liability, first thing the following morning when I first got wind of this whole thing happening (in november). I even actually turned it in directly at the local DMV office so that I could be sure they received it and it would get processed. Believe it or not when I called the DMV a couple of weeks ago to see if they could give me a print out showing the release of liability in there records, they said they had never received it and that they do lose them in the mail from time to time.

    This is just insane. If one must rely on the DMV to enter the Release of Liability information, and the DMV can have an error and not enter the information, how on earth can one be expected to be liable for fees and fines like this, especially in a case where there could be several thousands of dollars worth of fines.

    For example, Grandma June sells a car and sends in the release of liability to the DMV promptly since she does everything by the book. Unbeknownst to her some underpaid worker at the DMV drops her ROL on the ground and the paperwork never gets files. 12 months later the current owner of her car, who never registered it, plows into a telephone pole causing $4000 of damage, and runs off leaving the car there. Grandma June then gets a notice from that city that she owes that money to repair the telephone pole.

    Can Grandma June really be expected to pay these damages when the DMV simply did not file her release of liability? Clearly there must be some action that can be taken by her (or her lawyers) to clear her and make sure she does not have to pay.
    Last edited by ripped_off; 02-11-2006 at 08:58 PM.
  4. #4
    seniorjudge is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    St. Odo of Cluny Parish
    Posts
    29,533
    What I failed to do was send in the Release of Liability which CA law requires the seller to do within 10 days of sale.


    Go to court and tell your side of the story as best you can and hope for the best.
    There are two rules for success:

    (1) Never tell everything you know.
  5. #5
    ripped_off is offline Junior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    6
    Quote Originally Posted by seniorjudge
    What I failed to do was send in the Release of Liability which CA law requires the seller to do within 10 days of sale.


    Go to court and tell your side of the story as best you can and hope for the best.
    Thanks but I don't understand what "go to court" means. This is why I posted here. Who do I go to? What's my plan? By the way, thanks for all the help you (seniorjudge) have given, including your snide quote of the CA law, as if that was the only matter in this case.
  6. #6
    CdwJava is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    California
    Posts
    27,446
    If they take you to court you have the bill of sale to show you did not own the car at the time of the impound. Also, see if you can get a copy of the vehicle release to the title holder from the police department - this could be a big piece of evidence in your favor as it shows that even the police recognize this other person as the owner.

    Tow companies try to do this a lot. They rely on your caving. I have not personally heard of any that have gone to court, but I suppose that it IS possible.

    Also, keep in mind that - like it or not - YOUR failure to comply with CA law on the matter has resulted in this situation. While you may not like it, Seniorjudge's comment was true and will have an effect on the issue.

    - Carl
    A Nor Cal Cop Sergeant

    "Make mine a double mocha ...
    And a croissant!"

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM
  7. #7
    seniorjudge is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    St. Odo of Cluny Parish
    Posts
    29,533
    Quote Originally Posted by ripped_off
    Thanks but I don't understand what "go to court" means. This is why I posted here. Who do I go to? What's my plan? By the way, thanks for all the help you (seniorjudge) have given, including your snide quote of the CA law, as if that was the only matter in this case.
    I know all the answers to all of your questions.

    But, actually, it was your quote, not mine.

    Have a nice night.
    There are two rules for success:

    (1) Never tell everything you know.
  8. #8
    ripped_off is offline Junior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    6
    Quote Originally Posted by CdwJava
    If they take you to court you have the bill of sale to show you did not own the car at the time of the impound. Also, see if you can get a copy of the vehicle release to the title holder from the police department - this could be a big piece of evidence in your favor as it shows that even the police recognize this other person as the owner.

    Tow companies try to do this a lot. They rely on your caving. I have not personally heard of any that have gone to court, but I suppose that it IS possible.

    Also, keep in mind that - like it or not - YOUR failure to comply with CA law on the matter has resulted in this situation. While you may not like it, Seniorjudge's comment was true and will have an effect on the issue.

    - Carl
    Thanks for your response Carl. Do you think I should wait on this and see what they do (i.e. taking me to court or attacking my credit rating), or should I take action immediately and hire a lawyer? Only thing is it seems (from my preliminary research) that the cost of a lawyer for this matter could easily exceed what the bill they are trying to collect from me is.

    And I know that seniorjudge's comment was true. If I didn't know that I wouldn't have stated that in the first place. Believe me, I will do everything in my power on my next vehicle sale to ensure the DMV gets my ROL. However, it doesn't help the situation now, does it? This has annoyed me since the issue began. Instead of people trying to offer advice or help me, they just mime the whole "shame on you, you did a bad thing" which doesn't do a bit of good.
    Last edited by ripped_off; 02-11-2006 at 09:19 PM.
  9. #9
    CdwJava is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    California
    Posts
    27,446
    Quote Originally Posted by ripped_off
    Thanks for your response Carl. Do you think I should wait on this and see what they do (i.e. taking me to court or attacking my credit rating), or should I take action immediately and hire a lawyer? Only thing is it seems (from my preliminary research) that the cost of a lawyer for this matter could easily exceed what the bill they are trying to collect from me is.
    It should be a small claims matter. However, any action in collections could result in a hit to your credit rating, so you might want to keep a close eye on this.

    If it were me, I'd wait and see. Hiring an attorney would be too costly. And I don't see that the tow company has a good case ... but, I am not involved in civil law so I could be mistaken. It may be that the matter of your being the legally registered owner makes you liable. I just do not know for sure.

    - Carl
    A Nor Cal Cop Sergeant

    "Make mine a double mocha ...
    And a croissant!"

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM
  10. #10
    LSCAP is offline Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    nc
    Posts
    752

    ripped_off

    Weirdly this does belong in the section about debts. Someone over there could have told you how to stop the debt collectors.

    Like, formal letter requesting proof of debt.

    and maybe a "cease and desist" both letters unfortunately leave it on your financial record as a bad debt.

    and possibly sueing the towing company for harrassing you.

    By the way can you get a copy of the release to the other guy from the police dept. which might help prove he admitted it was his.

Similar Threads

  1. Liability for stolen car towing and storage fees?
    By Moonrock in forum Auto Accidents and Vehicle Claims
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 12-22-2009, 10:12 PM
  2. Towing Company Liability
    By usmgold in forum Small Claims Courts
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 04-15-2008, 06:45 PM
  3. Should I sue the Finance Company or the Towing Company? HELP!
    By Tasha1223 in forum Small Claims Courts
    Replies: 17
    Last Post: 04-25-2006, 09:44 AM
  4. Replies: 1
    Last Post: 02-11-2006, 08:33 PM
  5. Release of lien and mortgage company liability
    By slcurtin in forum Mortgages, Refinancing & Foreclosure
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 07-13-2004, 07:10 AM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  

© 1995-2012 Advice Company, All Rights Reserved

FreeAdvice® has been providing millions of consumers with outstanding advice, free, since 1995. While not a substitute for personal advice from a licensed professional, it is available AS IS, subject to our Disclaimer and Terms & Conditions Of Use.