Washington state towing company to compensate former US Navy sailor for selling his car while deployed, Attorney General’s Office announced last week.
The case began after Bethel Garage, Inc., a towing company located near Navy bases in Kitsap County, Wash., Towed the sailor’s car in December 2018, according to the office. of the GA.
But the sailor, identified in local media reports as submariner Vincent Rowell, was deployed at the time.
He was assigned to the Connecticut fast attack submarine and left the car with a friend on deployment, Attorney General’s Office spokeswoman Brionna Aho said. Kitsap Daily News this week.
The car, which was later involved in an accident, was towed away and sold, according to the publication.
Bethel Garage did not check a database to determine whether the towed vehicle belonged to a military person, the attorney general’s office said.
By auctioning off the deployed sailor’s vehicle, Bethel Garage violated the Military Civil Aid Act, federal law which offers several protections to the troops, in particular against the sale of their goods at auction during their active service.
“Despite operating in an area that is home to thousands of active-duty military personnel, Bethel had no policy to comply with the SCRA and did not check a free and publicly accessible database from the Department of Defense to see if the military had vehicles put up for auction. “said the office of the GA.
The sailor’s car, a 2016 Hyundai Elantra, was auctioned for $ 5,200, according to local media reports.
The court order filed this month “will return the money from the car auction to the sailor plus an additional $ 2,000 to compensate him for a year when he did not have a vehicle.” the GA office said.
Washington has almost identical state law to match federal law, according to the GA.
“The law is clear – towing companies have an obligation to determine whether a car is owned by a member of the military,” Attorney General Robert Ferguson said in a statement. “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. “
The GA press release announcing the resolution of the case notes that the owners of Bethel Garage made immediate changes to comply with federal and state law after being contacted about the sailor’s complaint. .
the Kitsap Daily News quoted Bethel Garage’s director of operations Ron Jake as saying the company was unaware of these laws and that authorities “have done a poor job of communicating” the law to “the people it affects “.
The company began to follow the law when it became aware of these requirements, Jake noted.
“I immediately started doing it,” Jake reportedly said. “I am absolutely very supportive of the military. Whenever I see one in uniform, I always thank him for his service.
The Ferguson office sent a letter to more than 400 tow truck operators in September, reminding them of their legal obligations
“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.
Geoff is a senior Navy reporter for the Military Times. He has covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was recently a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes all kinds of advice at [email protected]