3 win civil cases against tow company

Posted on 15 Oct 2009 at 6:11pm
By David Taffet | Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Longhorn Wrecker still under investigation, still keeping fees from others illegally towed from post office

NO SIGNS NOW | No-parking signs were removed from the parking lot at the post office on Oak Lawn on Monday, Oct. 12. (DAVID TAFFET/Dallas Voice)

At least five people whose cars were towed from the post office parking lot on Oak Lawn Avenue the day of the Pride parade will be reimbursed for towing fees.

Tiffany Meza was one of 30 people whose car was towed. She said she went to court on Monday, Oct. 12.

The representative from Longhorn Wrecker had little response when the judge asked why they towed from the lot. Meza said the company’s representative told the court that the drivers didn’t know that their contract had expired a year earlier.

Brandon Rodriguez, another of the towing company’s victims, dismissed the claims of the supervisor representing the company in court. Rodriguez said that the Longhorn Wrecker representative who claimed drivers were unaware of the expired contract was actually one of the drivers.

Rodriguez also said that night the supervisor was in his truck threatening people in the lot who tried to block the tow truck from taking other vehicles, and that the threats included hitting their bumpers with his truck.

Meza said that the five who filed complaints and have been working with the city would be reimbursed the $138 towing fee. Although the towing was ruled illegal, the company will keep the fee from the others whose cars were towed and did not file complaints.

Meza said that this case was simply about whether the company had the right to collect the fee and that damage to their cars would be handled separately, adding that the bumpers on her own car were damaged.

Before Longhorn Wrecker will consider paying for damage, they are insisting Meza present three estimates, she said.

Meza also claimed someone had rifled through the purses that she and her sister left in the car. She said that $20 was taken from her sister’s purse and that her glove compartment had been ransacked.

Meza said the tow truck driver opened her car with a slim jim to release the parking brake and set off the alarm. Witnesses told her that the driver sat in the seat of her car for an extended period of time and finally hauled it off with the alarm still blaring.

Charla Weissinger said her car was also damaged as Longhorn Wrecker towed it from the lot. She said when the tow truck driver couldn’t unlock the door with a slim jim, he bent the door frame trying to get access. When that didn’t work, she said, he broke her side back window to get inside.

Once he secured the car, he put tow lights on top, which scratched the roof, Weissinger said.

When Weissinger got to her car at the impound lot, she also found that someone had rummaged though the console. Repairs cost $882, Weissinger said, and she was without a car for two weeks while it was being repaired.

Longhorn admitted to Jesse Ballou, the city investigator on the case, that they were in the wrong and were willing to pay for the damage. But now the company’s representatives want to see three estimates on the repairs and will not return Weissinger’s calls, she said. She said she was never able to speak with a company representative directly.

Signs were not visible at the Oak Lawn post office parking lot before the company began towing, according to Rodriguez. He said new signs were posted after the company began taking cars.

Those signs remained in place at the entrance to the post office lot until this week. On Monday, three weeks after the initial incident, the post office removed the signs.

A regional spokesperson for the post office told Dallas Voice at the time that they did not have a contract to have vehicles towed from their lots.

Ballou said that complaints may be filed up to two years after the incident. Those that will receive refunds from the civil court appearance on Monday opted for the civil court, which had a two-week filing deadline.

However, Ballou said that others whose cars were towed should contact him. He said that they must make a written statement and present a receipt from the towing company. If there was damage to the car, they will need to present the estimate to repair the damage.

Ballou said that he collects the money from Longhorn Wrecker and distributes it.

“I like to handle the refunds,” he said, “to prevent the company from telling me ‘the check’s in the mail.’”

Ballou said that the investigation is ongoing and he could not talk about any other possible action against the company.

Meza said that among the continuing complaints against Longhorn Wrecker is a violation of the towing law that requires the company to report the location of a towed vehicle to Dallas police within an hour. She said she did not know where they had taken her car for several hours.

Although it has taken hours of her time, Meza said, “I did it because of the principle,” and she said she will continue to pursue them.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 16, 2009.

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