Police Department Changes Repossession Policy in Response to Civil Rights Lawsuit Brought by Westbrook Law PLLC

When a repossession agent unexpectedly arrived at our client’s home, the client physically intervened to prevent the unlawful repossession from taking place. Then the agent called the police. When City of Wyoming officers responded to the call, they prevented our client from intervening further and told him and the agent that the agent was free to complete the repossession.

Westbrook Law PLLC brought suit in January of 2018 on behalf of the client, alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments by the city and the responding officers. The case, captioned Patterson v. City of Wyoming, ended in a settlement in September of 2018, with the city paying damages as well as implementing a new policy for responding to similar calls.

Due process requires that state actors such as police do not assist with private repossessions without a court order where the vehicle owner disputes the lien holder’s right to repossess the vehicle. This is especially true when the repossession attempt causes a breach of the peace and thereby becomes unlawful under Michigan law. Such a dispute is a civil matter to be resolved in a lawsuit, not a criminal matter, and responding police officers are required to do no more than is necessary to maintain public safety.

If you have had a similar experience with police officers assisting in a repossession, contact us.

TJW