Up to 26,000 local drivers could expect a check in the mail because of a court ruling against a controversial towing company in Maryland.
G&G Towing was accused of violating the law by using predatory towing practices, including “spotters” who sought out unauthorized cars to tow.
G&G Towing was the focus of a 2014 investigation by the News4 I-Team, which captured footage of spotters working a busy parking lot in Silver Spring. Shortly after the I-Team investigation aired, attorneys filed a class action lawsuit against the company and showed the I-Team report during court proceedings.
Though parking signs warn drivers they are not permitted to walk off the property and leave their cars behind, G&G Towing was accused of being overly aggressive in its pursuit of those drivers. Montgomery County officials said G&G violated a 2012 state law prohibiting the use of towing staff to monitor parking lots for violations.
County officials said the judge returned a $22 million judgment against G&G Towing and dozens of property owners who used G&G Towing for towing services.
Online court records list dozens of local shopping centers and apartment complexes who were also listed in the suit. Court records show most were ordered to pay thousands of dollars toward the judgment.
Each driver who joined the class action suit is expected to receive $214 from the judgment, according to people familiar with the suit. Online court records and case information posted by attorneys said proceedings continue in the case, indicating the number of drivers involved in the suit could grow.
“There were thousands of tows that were done illegally,” said Eric Friedman, director of the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection. “(G&G Towing) was predatory and overly aggressive.”
Attorneys for G&G Towing declined to comment. Multiple sources said the company has gone out of business in the wake of the class action suit.
Friedman said Montgomery County received dozens of formal complaints against G&G Towing each year, in many cases for the use of predatory towing practices.
Friedman said towing companies should not be “turning their parking lots into lucrative fishing holes, or using a bounty system where tow trucks can hide in the bushes and swoop in. That’s not what the intent of the law is.”
Darcy Pelz-Butler of Wheaton is among the recipients of the class action payments. She said her Toyota was towed within an hour when she visited a friend at a Montgomery County apartment complex.
“It wasn’t just me and my parents and my family that got something out of (the lawsuit)," Pelz-Butler said. "I feel like a lot of people got money, and they don’t have to worry as much about parking their cars here.”
Reported by Scott MacFarlane, produced by Rick Yarborough, and shot and edited by Steve Jones.