Court restores towing company’s lawsuit against Township of Bridgewater


BRIDGEWATER – A state appeals court has restored a towing company’s lawsuit against the township, alleging that the police department violated its civil and constitutional rights by denying a towing license.

Michael Bessasparis, owner of township-based Somerset Hills Towing, filed the 11-count trial in November 2017 following the denial of a 2016 towing license and the police department issued more than 260 violations of the township towing order, which were later dismissed in city court.

Former Somerset County Superior Court Judge Yolanda Ciccone, now serving as Middlesex County District Attorney, dismissed the lawsuit, saying the township enjoyed immunity under the law on civil liability claims and that the lawsuit had failed to meet the statute of limitations.

A state appeals court on Thursday overturned Ciccone’s decision, saying Ciccone “erred” in applying the TCA’s immunity protections. The appeal panel also ruled that Ciccone erred in calculating when the limitation period would take effect.

A state appeals court overturned the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by a towing company against the township.

The controversy began in March 2014 when police alleged Bessasparis of 261 violations of the township towing order by overcharging customers by $ 15.52 from January to December 2013.

In August 2014, the police gave Bessasparis another summons for overbilling customers in January 2014.

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Bridgewater Police Officer Paul Payne said the summons were issued following an investigation into all licensed towing companies which was initiated following a complaint of overcharging by another company towing, according to court documents.

On December 10, 2015, after four days of trial and the closure of the municipality’s file, the municipal court rejected the summons, considering that the municipality had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Bessasparis had violated the ordinance. . The court issued dismissal orders on January 6, 2016.

In the meantime, the township had passed an ordinance requiring the chief of police to review applications for a convenience store permit and make a recommendation as to whether the permit should be approved.

On December 31, 2015, Somerset Hills Towing submitted an application for inclusion on the 2016 Convenience Store List. But three weeks later, former Police Chief Manuel Caravela recommended that the license be denied.

In his recommendation, according to court documents, Caravela admitted that the charges were dismissed but “only on a technical point and not on the merits of the case” as the court ruled that the complaints should have been signed against Somerset Hills Towing, and not against Bessasparis.

Somerset Hills has appealed the decision but, according to court documents, there is no record of the outcome.

Then, in November 2017, the company and Bessasparis filed a complaint against the municipality.


Mike Deak is a reporter for To get unlimited access to his Somerset and Hunterdon Counties articles, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

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