The Justice Department announced that it had reached a settlement of alleged violations of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) providing damages and credit repair to 26 servicemembers whose cars were towed and sold while they were on active duty without obtaining court orders as SCRA requires. The settlement resolves allegations that B.C. Enterprises Inc., d/b/a Aristocrat Towing and Aristocrat Towing Inc. (collectively “Aristocrat Towing”), violated the SCRA when it towed and sold these servicemembers’ vehicles without obtaining court orders. The case began with a referral from the U.S. Navy to the Justice Department after Navy Lieutenant Yahya Jaboori returned from deployment in Iraq to find that Aristocrat Towing had towed and sold his vehicle without a court order while he was deployed.
The SCRA protects the rights of servicemembers while on active duty in the military by suspending or modifying certain civil obligations. Under the terms of the settlement, which must be approved by a federal court in Virginia, Aristocrat Towing must pay a total of $75,000 in damages and repair the credit of the identified aggrieved servicemembers.
“Servicemembers make great personal sacrifices. We will ensure that the rights of the brave men and women who serve and protect us are protected at home,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez. “This settlement sends a strong message to businesses nationwide that the Justice Department will enforce the SCRA to protect against the taking of servicemembers’ property without first seeking court orders as is required by law.”
“No member of the military should come home from deployment to find their car has been towed and sold,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Neil MacBride. “Businesses should be aware of the many rights that SCRA gives to servicemembers and their families, and businesses should also be certain that we’ll work tirelessly to ensure that those rights are protected.”
This lawsuit, filed in 2008, was the first filed by the Civil Rights Division under the SCRA. The Civil Rights Division received enforcement authority under the SCRA in 2006, and has since filed suit and entered into a number of settlements with defendants ranging from local landlords to the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers.
Servicemembers and their dependents who believe that their SCRA rights have been violated should contact the nearest Armed Forces Legal Assistance Program office. Please consult the military legal assistance office locator at http://legalassistance.law.af.mil/content/locator.php . Additional information on the Justice Department’s enforcement of the SCRA and other laws protecting servicemembers is available at www.servicemembers.gov .