Filed Date: June 27, 2003
Closed Date: July 9, 2007
Clearinghouse coding complete
This is a case about a mandatory policy of impounding motor vehicles following the arrest of individuals for driving with a suspended or revoked license in Seattle, Washington. Initially filed in state court, this action was removed to the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington by the defendant, the City of Seattle, on June 27, 2003. The plaintiffs in this case were individuals who had their vehicles impounded by the defendant under the defendant’s mandatory impoundment policy seeking to represent a class of similarly situated persons. In addition to naming the City of Seattle, the plaintiffs also named four towing services that contracted with the city. (Those claims against the companies were voluntarily dismissed on May 23, 2005.) The plaintiffs alleged that the mandatory impoundment policy violated due process guarantees in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments; was considered an unlawful seizure under the Fourth Amendment; constituted several state common law theories of liability; and violated the state constitution. As such, the plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief as well as monetary damages.
On May 4, 2004, Judge Marsha J. Pechman granted the plaintiffs’ motion to certify the class. On June 27, 2005, Judge Pechman granted the defendants’ motion to modify the class certification to include only those individuals who had their vehicle impounded solely for driving with a suspended or revoked license. Individuals who had their car impounded for driving with a suspended license and another impoundable offense were thus excluded from the class. 2005 WL 1528957.
On the same day, Judge Pechman also granted the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment as to their conversion claim. Judge Pechman found that instituting a mandatory policy of impoundment was unlawful because it barred consideration of other reasonable alternatives to impoundment.
On August 1, 2005, Judge Pechman granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ Fourteenth Amendment claims. The court ruled that due process under the Fourteenth Amendment required a post-impoundment hearing in which the owner may challenge the probable cause supporting the violation that led to the impoundment. Because it was undisputed that the city allowed for such hearings, Judge Pechman granted summary judgment as to the due process claims.
On July 9, 2007, the court granted a settlement agreement between the parties. As part of the settlement, each named class representative was to receive $7,500 in settlement of their individual claims and as a service award. The court also approved an allocation of 15% of any funds remaining in the settlement fund as cy pres to be given to the Seattle Municipal Court “Driving While License Suspended” diversion program. The court also granted the plaintiffs’ motion for attorneys’ fees in the amount of $325,000. The remainder of the terms of the settlement agreement are unknown to the Clearinghouse, but one memorandum submitted by the plaintiffs in support of the agreement asserted that the settlement amount was more than two-thirds of “the best possible outcome.”
Following approval of the settlement agreement, the court dismissed the action on the merits with prejudice against the plaintiffs. This case is closed.
Claire Butler (12/30/2022)
See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/4678174/price-v-seattle-city-of/
Last updated July 17, 2023, 3:15 a.m.
State / Territory: Washington
Filing Date: June 27, 2003
Closing Date: July 9, 2007
Case Ongoing: No
The plaintiffs in this case are a class of individuals who had their vehicles impounded by the City of Seattle under a mandatory impoundment policy when the driver was arrested for driving with a suspended or revoked license.
Public Interest Lawyer: No
Filed Pro Se: No
Class Action Sought: Yes
Class Action Outcome: Granted
Causes of Action:
Prevailing Party: Plaintiff
Nature of Relief:
Source of Relief:
Form of Settlement: