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ARTICLE ID 372

$________ Negligent bailment by towing company - Car damaged in storage lot - Car improperly sold at auction - Civil theft.

Miami-Dade County

The plaintiff insurance company alleged that it owned a vehicle which was improperly sold at auction by the defendant towing company. The plaintiff also contended that the defendant failed to protect the car from damage and committed civil theft by failing to turn over the excess proceeds from the sale. The defendant maintained that the plaintiff was properly noticed of the sale and failed to take appropriate action to prevent the sale.

The plaintiff paid its insured $________ for a one-year-old Mercedes-Benz which was stolen in Canada. The car was sold to a bona fide purchaser in Florida. A mechanic performing a tune-up on the vehicle noticed a discrepancy in the VIN number and contacted police. The defendant towing company towed the car to its lot, pursuant to a contract with the Metro-Dade Police Department.

The plaintiff alleged that the defendant mailed notice of the auction sale of the vehicle to the wrong Canadian address and that it did not receive the notice until three days before the sale. The plaintiff claimed that it contacted the defendant and informed the defendant that it was the rightful owner of the vehicle. However, the plaintiff claimed that the defendant sold the vehicle at auction while the plaintiff’s representative was en-route from Canada with a tow truck.

The plaintiff also alleged, under a negligent bailment theory, that the defendant allowed the windshield to remain off the vehicle in the storage yard causing extensive damage. The vehicle was sold at the auction for $________, according to evidence offered. The plaintiff maintained that reduction of the towing expenses from the sale price left a $________ excess from the sale which the defendant failed to pay to the court register as required by law.

The defendant argued that it mailed notice of the sale to the address listed for the plaintiff with the Department of Motor Vehicles. The defense contended that evidence showed the plaintiff insurance company had knowledge of the sale through other means long before the written notice was received. The defendant’s owner testified that he had been communicating with the plaintiff’s representatives for weeks prior to the sale of the vehicle. The defense contended that the plaintiff could not tell when it first received actual notice and that the plaintiff knowingly failed to respond to prevent the car from being sold at auction.

As to the vehicle damage, the defendant argued that the windshield was removed at the request of the police and the car was covered by a tarp as permitted under the defendant’s contract p 7 3 with the police department.

The jury found for the plaintiff in the amount of $________ under the negligence count and $________ for the civil theft claim. The civil theft damages were tripled pursuant to statute. The plaintiff’s total recovery was $________. The judgment is being appealed by the defendant.

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