Repossession Company’s Recovery of Debtor’s Car from Locked, Underground Garage Held to be Legal, not a Breach of the Peace, not a Trespass, and not a Violation of the FDCPA

Practice Area(s): Professional Liability

Lawyer(s): Mark A. Bloomquist Erin D. Doran

Office(s): Minneapolis

Date: Apr 22 2016

District court granted summary judgment, holding that Repossession Company’s recovery of debtor’s car from a locked, underground garage of an apartment building was neither a trespass nor a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practice Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The defendant repossession agent, retained by an auto loan lender, drove his own car closely behind a random tenant’s car into the parking garage before the automatic garage door closed behind the agent’s car. Once inside the garage, the agent located the unattended debtor’s car, opened the car door using a Slim Jim, put the car into neutral, and pushed it out of the garage to a waiting tow truck, which then towed the debtor’s car off the premises to an impound lot. The repossession was accomplished without confrontation with anyone. The debtor sued the repossession agent, alleging the agent had trespassed and breached the peace, constituting violation of the FDCPA, conversion, and trespass. The agent argued that, while a nonresident entering the apartment’s parking garage might be deemed a trespasser, the agent in this case had a legitimate business reason to enter the garage because the debtor, in its loan contract, had consented to self-help repossession. The U.S. District Court Judge, David Doty, agreed, holding that the agent’s typical practice of retrieving cars by following another car into the otherwise locked and secured communal garage was a legitimate business activity and not a breach of the peace, not a trespass, and not a violation of the FDCPA.

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