A man filed a claim for damages Tuesday against the city of Los Angeles, alleging the city towed his vehicle while he was recovering from cancer surgery, then denied his appeal and sold the vehicle.
According to the Public Counsel legal organization, Joseph Morrissey regularly parked his car on city streets near his home for more than six years, and he did the same in February when he went into a hospital for cancer surgery.
When he returned home after more than a week, he found a citation for failing to move his car within 72 hours. Three days later, while Morrissey was recovering at home and medically prohibited from driving, the city towed his car, according to Public Counsel.
According to his lawyers, Morrissey contested the ticket and tow, paid the $68 fine and submitted evidence of his hospitalization, but he was ultimately denied the ability to challenge the fees. The car was later sold at lien sale, according to Public Counsel.
“I’ve never been involved in anything like this. I couldn’t afford the fees, so I tried to do everything they asked of me while I contested the tow,” according to a statement from Morrissey. “I submitted the papers, paid the citation. They took my money and still sold my car.
“The last thing any person fighting cancer in a hospital should have to worry about is whether the only thing they own could be taken and sold by the city,” Morrissey said.
Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the City Attorney’s Office, said the office has yet to receive a copy of the claim and had no immediate comment.
The Los Angeles City Council voted earlier this year to oppose a state bill, Assembly Bill 516, which would “severely hamper” cities’ ability to tow and impound cars that have unpaid parking tickets or other violations, according to city documents.
“The city tows otherwise safely parked cars after 72 hours but then refuses to consider evidence submitted to contest citations and impound,” said Nisha Kashyap, a staff attorney with Public Counsel. “These practices discriminate against people like Mr. Morrissey whose medical conditions restrict their ability to move a car.”
Per the state’s statute of limitations, the city has 45 days to respond to Morrissey’s claim. If the city rejects his claim, Morrissey can then file a lawsuit.
It was unclear how much money in damages is being sought in the claim.