Civil Litigation

Jury Finds in Favor of Local Disabled Vietnam Veteran Dragged by Negligent Recovery Agent in Car Repossession

C. David Durkee

FORT MYERS, FL – May 19, 2014 – A jury in Lee County Circuit Court recently awarded disabled Vietnam War Marine Corps veteran Daniel Smith $359,253 in damages in his lawsuit against Coast to Coast Recovery of South Florida, agreeing with Smith that the recovery agent service was negligent in the repossession of Smith’s 2006 Toyota Scion and caused the former Marine sniper severe injuries. Smith, 62 and his wife, Kim Smith, were represented by C. David Durkee and Vincent J. Tubiana of law firms Roberts & Durkee and Hutchison & Tubiana, respectively.

Here’s the background on this matter (Case No. 12-CA-874): Smith claimed that recovery agent Charles Rambo knocked on his front door at 3:45 a.m. on October 5, 2011, to inform him that he was repossessing his car and ask him for the keys. As Rambo towed the car and began to drive off, he didn’t notice that Smith, who is fully disabled as a result of war injuries, had leaned against the car and his military bracelet had become snagged with the passenger-side mirror. He dragged Smith approximately 150 feet until the mirror broke and he was thrown to the street, fracturing his hip and aggravating existing injuries that he suffered during his military service. Smith required two hip surgeries, including a full replacement of the hip.

According to Durkee and Tubiana, although recovery agents are allowed under state law to tow away repossessed vehicles without judicial process, they have an obligation to not breach the peace and should simply “hook and book,” a process in which they simply tow away the property without notice to the debtor. Durkee and Tubiana argued that Rambo breached his standard of care and failed to keep the peace by knocking on the door at 3:45 a.m.

“While we fully support the right of Charles Rambo and Coast to Coast Recovery Services of South Florida to recover our client’s car, they carried out the recovery recklessly and negligently, leading to severe injuries for our client – a disabled veteran who was ultimately dragged down the street in the early hours of the morning,” Durkee said. “We applaud the jury’s findings and hope that this case serves as an example for financial institutions and their recovery agents, and as a reminder that there can never be any excuse to breach the peace or cause injuries during the recovery process.”