Georgia Supreme Court says no ordinance, no boot

December 17, 2021

SJ Munoz

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The ability of Georgia businesses to use boots on vehicles took a big hit following a ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court on Dec. 14.

This unanimous decision dictates a business can only use a boot if an ordinance is currently in place. If a city or county has no such ordinance, a business is not allowed to boot any car.

All of this was put in motion by a 2018 lawsuit filed by Forrest Allen after his tractor-trailer was booted in the Wesley Chapel Lot in DeKalb County, Ga., and he was forced to pay $650 to have it removed.

The lawsuit against several of the mall’s tenants claimed that between 2013 and 2018 at least 250 people had been booted and required to pay a fine for removal at this particular lot.

In court proceedings, attorneys for the defendants cited a common law from the 1800s to justify the use of boots.

However, Justice Shawn Ellen LaGrua wrote, “Defendants cannot immobilize vehicles, or demand a fee to remove a vehicle immobilization device, absent an enabling statute. There is no enabling statute or ordinance at the location where Plaintiff and all other class members were booted.”

More to come

Allen’s lawsuit was one of several additional pending suits within Georgia that challenge the legality of boots. And while some local municipalities have passed ordinances which allow for booting, this ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court offers promise.

“We now have the Georgia Supreme Court’s guidance that this practice is illegal,” Matt Wetherington, an attorney for Allen, said in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution report. “Booting as it’s currently practiced is predatory and leads to violence between private citizens in dark parking lots. This decision makes Georgia a safer place.”

OOIDA Director of State Legislative Affairs Mike Matousek, was in complete agreement.

“The plaintiff’s attorney said it best in that booting as it is being used is predatory,” Matousek said. “This is a growing problem in trucking so kudos to Mr. Allen and the state of Georgia for doing the right thing.”

Leander Richmond, a driver for Eagle Express and an OOIDA member from Michigan, has experienced these predatory practices firsthand – and very recently in fact.

Richmond recalled within the last week helping a tractor-trailer driver, who he said was “hooked and extorted for $1,200.”

“This is great news, and I’m glad that Mr. Allen saw this through,” Richmond said. “This illegal action has not only taken millions from its victims but has created its own kind of criminal. I hope this can be used to catapult the change that is needed in this booting and hook extortion business.”

Great news also came to the driver who Richmond assisted as a refund check was delivered to their door after submitting a letter to the local township. LL

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SJ Munoz joined the Land Line Media team in 2020. He brings a variety of skills to the job as he has experience as a reporter, photographer and in radio. He’s also written for Omaha Magazine, the Lawrence Journal-World, and PrepsKC.com.