A Cambridge resident will file a lawsuit today against Ellery Garage for allegedly overcharging him on storage rates after the local garage towed his vehicle away from a Cambridge street last April.
Robert W. Keefer '72 said yesterday he will file the suit in Massachusetts Small Claims Court. He will ask for court costs, the alleged $2 overcharge for storing his pick-up truck, and up to $400 in punitive damages for "deliberately overcharging on storage rates."
Keefer added he is also considering submitting a complaint against the City of Cambridge for possible failure to enforce the existing $2 per 24-hour period storage rates set by Massachusetts law.
Keefer decided to initiate the court action after repeated communications with both the towing company and Cambridge police failed to produce the refund.
Ellery Garage towed Keefer's truck away last April 19 after a Cambridge policeman placed an "abandoned" sticker on the vehicle. Keefer said the truck had been parked on the Cambridge street for about 12 hours, less than the 24-hour period required before law enforcement authorities can designate a parked vehicle as "abandoned."
Keefer picked up his truck at the Ellery Garage premises early on the afternoon of April 21, less than 48 hours after the towing company had removed the vehicle.
Ellery Garage charged Keefer $18--a $12 fee for towing the vehicle and an additional $6 for storage. This is $2 more than should have been charged under state law.
Tim Stanley, an Ellery Garage employee, said yesterday the towing company charges $2 per calendar day for storing a vehicle that has been towed away by the garage.
Both Massachusetts law and a contract between the City of Cambridge and Ellery Garage state that charges imposed for storage of towed-away vehicles shall not exceed $2 for any 24-hour period.
Keefer said yesterday he wants to convince the court that overcharging on storage rates is "a recurring problem" and the only way to persuade Ellery Garage to comply with existing law "is to charge punitive damages on top of the $2."
If Ellery Garage has to "pay $200 or $300 for every $2 refund," the towing company may choose to end the over-charging practices, he added.
He also said the City of Cambridge and the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) have "done nothing about" what he called a "continuing abuse" of this law. This is a major reason for Keefer's initiation of today's court action.
The DPU is currently investigating Ellery Garage and other towing companies in Cambridge for violations of existing state laws regarding the towing of vehicles. The probe does not cover similar violations of existing state regulations on vehicle storage rates.