Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Validity & Amount of Garageman's Lien Determined -- Part II

Matter of GMAC v. ACME Towing Inc.

(Sup. Ct., Albany Co., decided 8/7/2008)

In Part I of this special proceeding to determine the validity and amount of respondent's garageman's lien on a 2002 Cadillac initially towed on December 23, 2005, Albany County Supreme Court Justice Joseph Teresi had directed the parties to submit additional proof on the questions of whether ACME was a "duly registered motor vehicle repair shop", whether it released possession of the vehicle back to the vehicle's owner, or whether ACME and the owner were colluding in submitted a "bogus lien claim." ACME claimed that its lien totaled $14,395.22, as of January 12, 2008, and continued to accrue storage charges.

To prove to claim a valid lien under New York Lien Law §184, a lienor is required to establish four elements: (1) the garage is the bailee of a motor vehicle; (2) it has performed garage services or stored the vehicle with the vehicle owner's consent; (3) there was an agreed upon price or, if no agreement on price had been reached, the charges are reasonable for the services supplied; and (4) the garage is a duly registered motor vehicle repair shop as required under article 12-A of the Vehicle and Traffic Law.

In Part I, Justice Teresi found that ACME had established the first three of these four elements. On the question of whether ACME was a duly registered motor vehicle repair shop, the court found:
ACME submitted a copy of its "Tow Truck Funded" type license, which was issued on "6/20/05" and expired on "12/31/05". No extension of such licence or additional licenses were provided. ACME's president alleges that such license was in effect at the time "the services were performed herein", but fails to specify the services he is referring to. Petitioner submitted no factual proof to discredit the license submitted. Accordingly, the court finds that ACME's license authorized it to both tow the vehicle on December 23, 2005 and store the vehicle until December 31, 2005.

While ACME has proven that it was duly licensed/registered at the time of its initial towing and storage of the vehicle, no proof is submitted that the registration continued in effect past December 31, 2005. Rather, the only proof submitted by ACME shows their license expired December 31,2005, eight days after it towed the vehicle. Because a lien only inures to the benefit of a registered motor vehicle repair shop, ACME's lien accrued storage charges only for that portion of time ACME was duly licensed/registered.

* * * * *

ACME proved it was registered at the time it towed the vehicle and for eight days of its storing the vehicle. In accord with ACME's agreement with the owner of the vehicle, and Lien Law §184, ACME is entitled to a lien for towing and storage of the vehicle from December 23, 2005 to December 31, 2005.

Accordingly, ACME's lien against the vehicle amounts to $211.82 (Tow fee and First day of Storage - $80 + Second and Third Day of Storage $30 + Fourth through Eighth Day of Storage
$85 + Tax at 8.625%).
With respect to ACME's additional charges for "services performed", Justice Teresi ruled that ACME did not support the validity of the lien claimed "nor is it properly raised in this special proceeding under Lien Law §201-a."

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