The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a deal with Los Angeles towing company Black and White Towing Inc. to resolve allegations it illegally auctioned off a U.S. Navy car in active duty, in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).
The SCRA is a federal law that provides a variety of financial and housing protections for members of the United States military. The law prohibits a towing company from auctioning a military-owned vehicle unless it first obtains a court order authorizing it to do so.
The department’s lawsuit, which was filed today with the settlement, alleges that Black and White illegally auctioned a 2014 Honda Accord from a US Marine while the Marine was stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County. , in California. The Marine’s car was struck by another vehicle while it was legally parked and unoccupied. Black and White towed the car to its parking lot in Pacoima, California. When the Marine learned that her vehicle had been towed, she contacted Black and White and told them she was in the military and would work with the other driver’s insurance company to retrieve the vehicle. . The complaint also alleges that the Navy car contained her military uniform and several military awards and certificates, and Department of Motor Vehicles records indicated that she obtained her vehicle loan through the Navy Federal Credit Union. . Before the insurance company could make arrangements to inspect or recover the vehicle, Black and White auctioned it off, without a court order. As a result, the Navy lost use and ownership of the car, but still had to continue making its monthly car loan payments to Navy Federal.
Under the proposed settlement, which is subject to the approval of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, Black and White must pay $ 22,000 in compensation to the Navy and a civil fine of $ 5,000 to the United States Treasury. Black and White will also be required to adopt new policies and implement new training requirements.
“When towing companies ignore their legal obligations under the Military Relief Act, it can have serious financial consequences for service members and their families,” said Deputy Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Military Personnel Division. civil rights. “We hope this regulation encourages all towing companies to review and improve their policies and ensure that the rights of all military personnel are honored and respected.”
Members of the military and their dependents who believe their SCRA rights have been violated should contact the nearest Armed Forces Legal Assistance Program office. Office locations can be found at http://legalassistance.law.af.mil/.
The Department of Justice’s enforcement of the SCRA is conducted by the Housing and Civil Law Enforcement Section of the Civil Rights Division and US prosecutor’s offices nationwide. Since 2011, the department has obtained more than $ 474 million in monetary relief for more than 120,000 military personnel through the application of the SCRA. Additional information on the Department’s enforcement of SCRA and other laws protecting the military can be found at www.servicemembers.gov.