HARBOR ORCHARD – Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson recently announced that a court order would force Kitsap County towing company Bethel Garage to pay a former Navy sailor for illegally selling his car to auction. The ordinance also requires him to implement specific policies so as not to harm members of the service in the future.
The case is part of Ferguson’s ongoing military and veteran initiative to defend active duty members and Washington veterans. This involves involving and educating the military and ex-combatants on their rights and the resources available to them, vigorously enforcing legal protections under the authority of the Attorney General and promoting and facilitating access to services. civil law.
According to the Attorney General’s Office (AGO), they opened the case after receiving a complaint about the business from a Washington-based sailor. In December 2018, Bethel legally towed the sailor’s car. The sailor was deployed outside of Washington state at that time. However, Bethel did not verify if the car was owned by a military person. Therefore, Bethel Garage then illegally sold his car at an auction.
The case follows a letter Ferguson sent in September to every licensed tow truck operator in the state, outlining their legal obligations to service members and providing resources to ensure their businesses comply. The letter was sent to over 400 tow truck operators.
“Unfortunately, some tow truck operators are not complying with the law,” the letter said. “My goal is not to file a complaint. My goal is to ensure that the rights of the military are protected; a goal that you certainly share.
“The law is clear – towing companies have an obligation to determine if a car is owned by a member of the military,” Ferguson said. “When our military men and women are deployed far from home and their families, they shouldn’t have to worry about whether their belongings are safe. There are specific laws that protect our military and I will enforce them. “
In an interruption insurance filed in Kitsap County Superior Court on Dec. 16, Ferguson claimed Bethel Garage violated the Military Civil Assistance Act (SCRA), a federal law that provides protections for members of the military. active services, including protection against having their property auctioned off while it was in active service. This law, which Washington mirrors in almost identical state law, requires companies to obtain a court order before auctioning vehicles owned by active duty members. Ferguson claimed the company had committed an unfair trading practice and also violated state Consumer Protection Act (CPA) by failing to put in place policies and procedures to comply with the SCRA.
The court order will restore the money from the car auction to the sailor as well as an additional $ 2,000 to compensate him for a year he did not have a vehicle.
The owners of Bethel Garage made immediate changes to follow SCRA and CPA guidelines after receiving the first correspondence from the Attorney General’s office regarding the sailor’s car.