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

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: May 13, 2013
Case #: 12-52
Ginsburg, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/12-52_l537.pdf

Preemption: The Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 does not preempt state-law claims arising from the storage and disposal of towed vehicles.

Petitioner towed Respondent’s car at the request of Respondent’s landlord.  Petitioner attempted to auction the car, even though Respondent informed Petitioner that he wanted to reclaim it.  Petitioner eventually traded the car and did not compensate Respondent.

Respondent sued in New Hampshire Superior Court, arguing that Petitioner had violated state statutory and common law regarding the storage and disposal of abandoned vehicles.  The court concluded that Respondent’s claims were preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (FAAAA), which preempts state law “related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier . . . with respect to the transportation of property.”  The New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed, holding that Respondent’s claims were not preempted because they did not relate to “the transportation of property,” and, alternatively,  that the claims were not sufficiently related to the towing company 's “service” to warrant preemption.

The United States Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the New Hampshire Supreme Court.  The Court held that the FAAAA does not preempt state-law claims arising from the storage and disposal of towed vehicles.  Such claims, the Court reasoned, are unrelated to both the "transportation of property" and the "service" of motor carriers, and thus are not preempted by the FAAAA.