A North Carolina towing company accused of improperly booting trucks and then charging exorbitant fees to have the boots removed has been enjoined from that activity by a North Carolina court.
Superior Court Judge Craig Croom of Wake County handed down a preliminary injunction against David Satterfield individually and the company he owns, A1 Towing Solutions. The injunction says the state of North Carolina, which filed suit against Satterfield and A1, is “likely to prevail on its claims in this action against the defendant parties” in making its ruling.
The injunction blocks A1 from booting or “otherwise immobilizing” a vehicle “without having first obtained for each such vehicle written permission of authorization to do so from the owner or lessee of the property on which the vehicle was found,” Judge Croom wrote.
The injunction also stops A1 from “demand of receiving payment for release of any vehicle booted” or “otherwise immobilized” or already hooked up to a tow truck. The act can be performed with the written permission noted earlier, according to the injunction.
One of the issues in the bootings by A1 were the fees demanded by the company to unboot the vehicle. The incidents that caught the attention of the Attorney General’s office involved charges that A1 was charging drivers exorbitant fees to free their vehicles.
The original complaint issued by the office of North Carolina Attorney General Joshua Stein contains a laundry list of charges against A1, backed by stories provided to the Attorney General by drivers themselves..
The charges include drivers actually being in their truck and suddenly feeling the vehicle being booted, without being told to move to avoid the action; trucks getting towed out of lots that overnight mysteriously sprouted “no parking” signs where a day earlier there had not been an indication of restricted parking; and charging fees to get the trucks “un-booted” that the Attorney General calculated at a rate of about $3,000 per hour, given the amount of work that A1 had to put in to boot the truck.
Judge Croom’s list of things that A1 can’t do under the injunction is lengthy, and it appears he read the Attorney General’s complaint and largely barred everything that the state alleges that A1 did. So the towing company can’t “separately boot…both pieces of a tractor-trailer rig; booting vehicles while the driver is in the vehicle without first informing the driver or requesting that the driver move the vehicle; engaging in any prohibited debt collection practices” and “communicating any threat in connection with an effort to collect.”
The injunction also requires A1 to release any vehicles it is still holding.
Although the judge said the state is likely to prevail, he also noted that the preliminary injunction “is not a final determination in this matter.”
Stein filed the action under a price gouging statute approved by the state in early March as the pandemic was beginning to shut down businesses while providing a tremendous boost in demand for staples, which put many truckers on the road performing vital services. Several of the driver stories in Stein’s complaint involve trucks hauling goods like water.
In a press release announcing the preliminary injunction, Stein said the suit alleges that A1 and Satterfield “violated North Carolina’s price gouging statute and engaged in deceptive trade practices and unfair debt collection practices.”
A call to the attorney listed in the injunction for Satterfield and A1, Winfred Ervin Jr., was not returned by publication time. A call to a listing found on the internet for A1 said the number had been disconnected.