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One Court of Justice Blog

October 20, 2016

COA: Bring more than $40 for a hearing on an abandoned vehicle

In a decision involving whether fees associated with towing and storage of an abandoned vehicle must be paid in addition to a $40 bond in order to obtain an abandoned vehicle hearing, the Court of Appeals relied on Legislative intent.  In Noll v Ritzer, No 328131, the Court of Appeals held the amendment of the statutory language by 2008 PA 539 indicated “the Legislature’s intent requiring the posting of a bond plus accrued towing and storage fees must accompany a request for a hearing under MCL 257.252a, unless the fees have already been paid (or bond posted).”
 
Plaintiff sold a motorcycle to a third party, but failed to retain proof of sale. The third party and the motorcycle were then involved in accidental fatality. The Michigan State Police directed Defendant to tow and store the vehicle pursuant to MCL 257.252d(1)(e), allowing a “police agency to remove a vehicle to a place of safe keeping at the expense of the last titled owner if the vehicle must be seized to preserve evidence of a crime, or reasonable cause that the vehicle was involved in the commission of a crime.” Defendant’s fees as result of the towing and storage totaled over $11,000. Because the motorcycle remained titled in Plaintiff’s name, a Notice of Abandoned Vehicle was sent informing Plaintiff of his right to contest the vehicle’s status as abandoned, or the reasonableness of the towing and storage fees. Plaintiff petitioned the district court for a hearing under MCL 257.252a(6), but failed to post a bond with the court in the amount of $40 plus the accrued towing and storage fees because the district court’s practice was not to require the fees until the vehicle’s release was sought. Subsequently, the district court held vehicle removal was proper, towing and storage fees were reasonable, but that Defendant was limited to $1,000 in damages per MCL 257.252i(2).
 
On appeal to the circuit court the Defendant argued that the district court erred by not requiring Plaintiff to post a bond of $40 plus accrued towing and storage fees prior to procuring a hearing. The Court of Appeals underwent a statutory interpretation analysis of MCL 257.252 et. seq. with an eye to the fact that while a section of a statute may be unambiguous, its interplay with the entirety of the statute may be rendered ambiguous, and statutory amendments must be closely scrutinized. After reviewing MCL 257.252a’s most recent 2008 amendment, the court determined that the Legislature intended “a bond in the amount of $40 plus accrued towing and storage fees must be posted before a hearing can take place.”
 

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