Thursday, September 14, 2006
Help Me Howard: Handicapped space
A South Florida woman jumped out of her car to help a baby in distress and possibly dying. But in the midst of the crisis, she accidentally parked her car in a handicapped space. The car was towed -- not then -- but days later. So, is that legal? The answer is in tonight's "Help Me Howard" with Patrick Fraser.
(WSVN) -- Phylise Davis was pulling into her apartment complex when she saw the woman screaming...
Simone: "And I was crying, calling for help, 'Somebody help me and my baby.'"
As Phylise parked her car, she realized 1-year-old Shamari had stopped breathing.
"When I pulled in, the baby was like, having seizures. He wasn't breathing, and his arms were like flat out."
Phylise rushed into her apartment and dialed 911. As she ran back outside she saw she had parked in a handicapped space, but to her, it was minor compared to what was happening.
Davis: "The fact that you are seeing a baby there, he is not breathing, it's like the baby's life is in your hands for you to react. It was just so emotional because you are there. If you were there, you had to see it."
Thanks to a neighbor doing CPR, and Phylise's quick call to fire rescue, Shamari is fine, and his mother is thankful that Phylise drove by.
"Maybe my baby would be gone. She was there all the way, and I want to thank her for that."
After Shamari was taken to the hospital, Phylise went into her apartment, forgetting she had parked in the handicapped space.
Davis: "I did not move the car. I was shaken up. I did not move the car until the next morning."
And that's when she put her car in its normal, legal space. Then, a day later, after her husband backed it into a legal space, her car was hauled away.
When she went to the towing lot, they told her it was because she had parked in a handicapped space, and they had this picture to prove it.
Davis: "They gave me an old photo, which was taken Thursday. They towed my car on Saturday, which was three days later."
Phylise is convinced someone took the picture Thursday night when she admits she parked there, that they may have had other cars to tow that night and waited until Saturday morning at 4 a.m. to come tow her car.
Davis: "I mean, you come with a picture from a cell phone that I am sure captured the date, and then you cut and paste it on a piece of paper, blow it up with a tag number. But you don't give me a time or a date that you towed it."
Phylise thinks she is right, but she had to pay the tow company $124 to get her car back. Not fair, she says.
Davis: "I would like to get my money back. I mean it was unfair. They just took my money."
But can you be towed days after you parked illegally?
To get the answer Phylise dialed Help Me Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "First of all, it was not illegal for Phylise to park there temporarily. That's what the law calls the right of necessity, which means it's OK to break the law to prevent a greater tragedy. Secondly, you can only tow the car while its parked illegally, not days later from a legal spot."
When I talked to the tow company owner, he said the property manager called at 4 a.m. Saturday morning to come get the car.
He said his driver took this picture that morning, not Thursday like Phylise says.
He even showed us the time and date to prove it was taken on Saturday.
Phylise is convinced they changed the date on the photo.
But the tow may have been illegal for a completely different reason.
When I talked to the property owner, she said none of her people called to have the car towed. Howard says now the case becomes simple.
Howard Finkelstein: "For a car to be towed from private property, the towing company needs authorization from the owner of the property or their representative. Since the owner of the property says they did not give permission, unless the tow company can prove otherwise, the tow is illegal, and they have to return the money to Phylise."
That's good news for Phylise, who says when she looks back on that day she'll forget about the tow but will never forget the baby's life she helped save that day.
Simone: "We are so happy that God blessed us. God came and stepped in, and God granted him life."
By the way, Howard mentioned breaking a law to prevent a greater tragedy. That includes things like speeding to get someone to the hospital, and, in Phylise's case, the police realized that. They saw her car parked in the handicapped space, and they knew it would be wrong to write her a ticket because she had parked there in her rush to help save a life.
A problem parked in your lap? Want to tow it away? Contact us, we don't have a two-ton truck, but we have a law library full of dusty books just waiting to be cracked open.
Keep in mind every situation is different. If you find yourself with a similar problem, contact your own attorney.
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