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Dan's City Used Cars, Inc. v. Pelkey

Supreme Court of the United States

March 20, 2013, Argued; May 13, 2013, Decided

No. 12-52

Opinion

 [*254]  Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case concerns  [****7] the preemptive scope of a provision of the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (FAAAA or Act) applicable to motor carriers. Codified at 49 U.S.C. §14501(c)(1), the provision reads:

“[A] State . . . may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having  [**1775]  the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier . . . with respect to the transportation of property.”

Plaintiff-respondent Robert Pelkey brought suit under New Hampshire law against defendant-petitioner Dan’s City Used Cars (Dan’s City), a towing company. Pelkey alleged that Dan’s City took custody of his car after towing it without  [*255]  Pelkey’s knowledge, failed to notify him of its plan to auction the car, held an auction despite Pelkey’s communication that he wanted to arrange for the  [***915]  car’s return, and eventually traded the car away without compensating Pelkey for the loss of his vehicle.

Disposal of abandoned vehicles by a “storage company” is regulated by chapter 262 of the New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated. See N. H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§262:31 to 262:40-c (West 2004 and 2012 West ***. Supp.). Dan’s City relied on those laws to dispose of Pelkey’s vehicle  [****8] for nonpayment of towing and storage fees. According to Pelkey, however, Dan’s City failed to comply with New Hampshire’s provisions governing the sale of stored vehicles and the application of sale proceeds. Pelkey charged that Dan’s City’s disposal of his car without following the requirements contained in chapter 262 violated the New Hampshire Consumer Protection Act, §358-A:2 (West 2009), as well as Dan’s City’s statutory and common-law duties as bailee to exercise reasonable care while in possession of a bailor’s property.

We hold, in accord with the New Hampshire Supreme Court, that state-law claims stemming from the storage and disposal of a car, once towing has ended, are not sufficiently connected to a motor carrier’s service with respect to the transportation of property to warrant preemption under §14501(c)(1). The New Hampshire law in point regulates no towing services, no carriage of property. Instead, it trains on custodians of stored vehicles seeking to sell them. Congress did not displace the State’s regulation of that activity by any federal prescription.

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569 U.S. 251 *; 133 S. Ct. 1769 **; 185 L. Ed. 2d 909 ***; 2013 U.S. LEXIS 3520 ****; 81 U.S.L.W. 4287; 24 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 184; 2013 WL 1942398

DAN'S CITY USED CARS, INC., dba DAN'S CITY AUTO BODY, Petitioner v. ROBERT PELKEY

Prior History:  [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

Pelkey v. Dan's City Used Cars, 163 N.H. 483, 44 A.3d 480, 2012 N.H. LEXIS 43 (2012)

Disposition: 163 N. H. 483, 44 A. 3d 480, affirmed.

CORE TERMS

towing, disposal, storage, regulation, motor carrier, transportation, preemption, stored, preempted, transportation of property, state law, route, state-law, auction, Garage, notice, preemptive, consumer protection, preemption clause, authorization, carrier, removal, truck, abandoned vehicle, towed vehicle, deregulation, charges

Business & Corporate Compliance, Transportation Law, Carrier Duties & Liabilities, State & Local Regulation, Transportation Law, Interstate Commerce, Federal Preemption, Private Vehicles, Towing, Constitutional Law, Supremacy Clause, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, General Overview