Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon has obtained a temporary restraining order barring a towing company from towing vehicles off two parking lots near the Pageant Theater in St. Louis.
The order by Circuit Judge David Dowd against Bruce Tipton Jr., who does business as Tipton & Sons Towing at 6236 Page in Wellston, also requires Tipton to follow state laws requiring towing, storage and fees if he tows vehicles from other areas. Nixon is suing Tipton and his business to recover restitution for consumers whose vehicles were reportedly illegally towed.
Investigations by the Attorney General’s Office and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department found Tipton reportedly charged for towing and storage in excess of posted rates; towed vehicles when the owner of the property on which they were parked was not present; failed to notify vehicle owners within five days their cars had been towed; and committed several other violations of Missouri’s Merchandising Practices Act and traffic regulations regarding tow truck companies.
Many of the violations took place near the Pageant Theater in the 5700 block of Delmar. Theater patrons were reportedly enticed to park at a nearby funeral home by a sign that advertised concert parking for $10. The lot was not conspicuously posted with tow notices, and there was no attendant on duty at the lot. Concert-goers would see the parking sign, search for an attendant, and, finding none, park their car and go to the event at the theater.
Nixon’s lawsuit contends funeral home employees then contacted Tipton to tow the cars. Consumers paid, on the average, $330 for the tow and storage of their vehicles. It is believed Tipton and the funeral home employees split the proceeds from the tow. Several other vehicles were towed from a restaurant parking lot near the theater; that lot also was not appropriately posted. Because Tipton does not operate a 24 hour line, several out-of-town theater-goers reported their cars were held all weekend.
“People who are out to enjoy a show should not have this kind of rude awakening when it’s time to go home for the evening,” Nixon said. “Bruce Tipton continued to tow despite the execution of a search warrant earlier this month by St. Louis police on his property seizing some 20 vehicles that were illegally towed. It is time for him to stop illegally towing vehicles and face the consequences.”
The order obtained by Nixon restrains Tipton and his employees from:
* Towing or causing to be towed any vehicle from the parking lot at the Ronald Jones Funeral Chapel, 6175 Delmar, or the parking lot at Church’s Chicken, 6190 Delmar.
* Charging for towing and storage in excess of posted rates.
* Towing from any private property not properly posted.
* Towing a vehicle from private property when the owner, an employee or agent of the real property is not present at the time of removal.
* Towing a vehicle and failing to notify the owner of the vehicle within five working days or failing to notify the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department within 24 hours, as required by law.
* Breaking several other Missouri traffic regulations regarding tow truck companies.
The temporary restraining order will remain in effect until at least May 24, when a hearing on Nixon’s request for preliminary and permanent injunctions against Tipton is scheduled.
Nixon is asking the court to order Tipton to pay quadruple restitution to consumers harmed by any illegal towing practices, as well as to pay penalties and costs to the state.
The lawsuit also asks that Tipton’s license to tow in St. Louis City and County be suspended, and that he be permanently barred from operating a towing business or an impound and storage business.
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