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Dan’s City Used Cars v. Pelkey

This case presented the question whether state-law claims against a towing company based on the manner in which the towing company disposed of a towed car are preempted by a provision of the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA) that preempts state laws related to prices, routes, or services of motor carriers with respect to the transportation of property. Dan’s City Used Cars towed Robert Pelkey’s car from the handicapped parking space in his apartment complex’s parking lot. He then spent two months in the hospital, and only learned his car was towed upon his return. Although his lawyer informed Dan’s City that his car was not abandoned and that he wanted to arrange for its return, Dan’s City eventually traded Mr. Pelkey’s car away without reimbursing him for his loss. Mr. Pelkey brought state consumer protection act and negligence claims against Dan’s City. The superior court held that the claims were preempted by the FAAAA, but the New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed, holding that the claims neither relate to services nor are with respect to the transportation of property. The Supreme Court granted certiorari on December 7, 2012.

Public Citizen served as co-counsel for Mr. Pelkey in the U.S. Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision that adopted many of our arguments, the Court held that federal law does not preempt any of Mr. Pelkey’s state-law claims.