Is the bodyshop allowed to hold my vehicle if no work or supplement has been completed and they have not given an amount if any for storage fees?

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Is the bodyshop allowed to hold my vehicle if no work or supplement has been completed and they have not given an amount if any for storage fees?

My vehicle was in an accident and was dropped off at a body shop. The employee that took the vehicle quit his job and left my vehicle outside with the keys in it. Unaware of this, a week later I called the shop for an update. The owner of the shop claimed to know nothing about the vehicle and actually said they did not have the vehicle at first. They had not called the insurance company for a supplement or even looked at the vehicle. I said that I was going to take the vehicle and they then claimed the starter had went without warning. I told them that I would be there the next day with a tow truck and specifically told them not to do any work to the vehicle. The next day the vehicle was moved inside and they refused to give me my vehicle because The owner of the shop is out of town for the next 4 days and there might be fees or parts ordered already. They called in a supplement with the insurance company after I had told them I was picking up the vehicle the previous day, which has since been canceled by the insurance company who is in full agreement with me on the entire situation. According to them they were only aware of my vehicle even being there for 1 day so are they legally allowed to hold my vehicle for potential fees and parts that they cant even give me an amount for?

Asked on March 4, 2019 under Accident Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

No, they cannot: since when you called, they initially said they did not even know about the vehicle, at which point you told them that you were picking it up, they could not have begun any work on it before you said not to do work. Under those circumstances, they had no grounds to hold your vehicle, when you asked for it back before they incurred any costs on it.
Unfortunately, the police are unlikely to help you recover your vehicle (they tend to view matters like these as "civil" matters, not matters for the police), which means to get it back, you will need to file a legal action againt the shop for unlawful distraint, or the unauthorized seizure of your property, to get a court order to get it back. You can also seek monetary compensation (e.g. for court costs or other expenses you incurred due to this) in the same action. The action can be filed on an "emergent" (think: urgent or emergency basis) to get into court and get a court order in a week or so. You can get instructions and likely sample forms from the court, either online or in the court clerk's office, or you retainer an attorney to help you.


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