South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Towing Company Holding of Vehicle without Permission Was Conversion

Appeals court affirmed that for a towing company to deprive the rightful owner of a vehicle of the use of the vehicle without good cause was conversion, so damages were due.

Topic Real and Personal Property
Key Words

Vehicle, Security Interest, Lien, Towing, Wrongful Detention, Conversion

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Rodriguez bought a van from Bell on time. Rodriguez granted a security interest in the van to Bell, who perfected the interest by delivering the title to the Illinois Secretary of State. A year later, a policeman found the van parked on a public street with no license. He stuck an abandoned vehicle sticker on it. A week later it was towed away by Rogerís Towing. Bell, holding the title, was notified. Bell told Rogerís he wanted to get the vehicle. Rogerís said he would have to pay $1,000. Bell sent a letter offering to pay $175 for towing and storage. Rogerís ignored the letter. Bell sued. Rogerís did not appear in court, so Bell received a default judgment. Rogerís filed to vacate the default order and, another month later, there was a trial. The court held that Bell was entitled to possession when the vehicle was towed. Rogerís was negligent for failing to respond to Bellís inquiry and letter. The court ordered the van returned and added $10,000 in damages. Rogerís appealed.


Affirmed. As the trial court determined, the vehicle was not really abandoned. It had been left parked for a long time and someone took the license. In any case, Rogerís had a duty to respond to the inquiry by Bell, as Rogerís must return vehicles to their owners once the towing fees are paid. The claim that the fee was $1,000 was misrepresentation. To ignore the letter offering $175 and then the notice of suit meant there was wrongful detention of the van. The owner was deprived of the use of his property and so is due damages. Bell had a valid lien on the van; for Rogerís to deny Bell his right to the vehicle was conversion. As such, the damages were not excessive.


Bell Leasing Brokerage v. Roger Auto Service, ---N.E.2d--- (2007 WL 958925, Ct. App., Ill., 2007)

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