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Washington State Patrol Exceeded Authority Impounding Vehicles For Suspended Drivers License

Washington State resident Mark Potter appealed the dismissal of his class action suit against the Washington State Patrol (WSP) for wrongfully impounding vehicles due to suspended driver’s licenses. The dismissal was reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

Due to a suspended driver’s license, two of Potter's vehicles were impounded and subsequently auctioned after a 90 day hold when he was unable to pay towing and storage fees. One vehicle was parked on the side of a road and his mother was in the other vehicle but was not allowed to take possession. Potter filed the action after a holding in another impound case that the WSP exceeded it's authority. See All Around Underground, Inc. v. Washington State Patrol. 148 Wn.2d 145, 60 P.3d 53 (2002). The trial court granted the WSP's motion for summary judgment dismissal for common law privilege based on Restatement (Second) of Torts § 265. Potter appealed.

The Supreme Court for the State of Washington, on certification from the Appellate Court held that such a privilege did not exist in this case under section 265, and if it did it would only apply to individuals in their working capacity. The court held (1) that Potter sued the WSP in it's capacity as an entity and (2) that the WSP exceeded it's statutory authority by impounding the vehicles for suspended licenses. See: Potter v. Washington State Patrol, 161 Wn.2d 335; 166 P.3d 684 (Wash. 2007).

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Related legal case

Potter v. Washington State Patrol