Central Tow Co., Inc. v. City of Boston

Citation371 Mass. 341,357 N.E.2d 310
Decision Date15 November 1976
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts

Page 310

357 N.E.2d 310
371 Mass. 341
Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk.
Argued Sept. 16, 1976.
Decided Nov. 15, 1976.

Page 311

Sumner H. Woodrow, Boston, for plaintiff.

Kevin F. Moloney, Asst. Corp. Counsel, Boston, for the city of Boston.


[371 Mass. 342] KAPLAN, Justice.

The plaintiff company, authorized by the Department of Public Utilities to engage in towing and storing motor vehicles, sued the defendant city of Boston 1 for charges calculated at $46,010 incurred--so the claim asserted--for towing and storing 104 vehicles in the period from October, 1971, to July, 1972, at the alleged request of the city. 2 After a responsive pleading by the city, a judge of the Superior Court on August 26, 1974, referred the matter to a master who rendered a report favoring the plaintiff. On motion of the plaintiff to confirm and of the city to reject the report, the judge accepted the master's subsidiary fact findings, but, disagreeing with the master's general findings (grounded on legal rulings) and conclusions of law, the judge ultimately directed entry of judgment for the city. 3 The plaintiff having appealed to the Appeals Court, we brought the case here on our own motion.

On sundry occasions the Boston police dnlisted the aid of tow companies to remove private vehicles from the city streets. The most common occasion was when a car was parked in a prohibited area, such as hospital zone, or offended the law in some similar fashion. So also the police saw to the removal of abandoned or stolen cars, and cars left after traffic accidents or like casualties. Yet another category was cars constituting evidence in criminal matters.

In any of these instances a police officer from a police division would telephone one of the tow companies--the plaintiff was but one of a number of companies engaged in [371 Mass. 343] this line of work--and notify it of the location of the car to be towed. A company was not obligated to act in response to any call received but customarily it would respond if its equipment was then available. The plaintiff towed 'hundreds' of cars during the period in question. 4 In by far the larger number of cases the car owners, after doing what was necessary to discharge any violations, would appear at the company's storage lot, pay the towing and storage charges, 5 and remove their vehicles, 6 the

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city not being expected to play any part. In a relatively few cases the owners did not turn up and the cars accumulated charges. The 104 cars involved in the present lawsuit were thus unclaimed; a breakdown by the categories in which the cars fell is given in the margin. 7

The plaintiff asserted in this lawsuit that the city was responsible for payment of the charges accumulated on these vehicles, but we agree with the judge below that there was no legal basis for that assertion. The measure of the case lies in the finding of the master that '(n)o express conversation or communication ever occurred between City of of Boston officials and plaintiff regarding payment for towing and storage of motor vehicles.' No doubt it was most [371 Mass. 344] imprudent of the parties not to have entered into an express contract about vehicles that would remain in the plaintiff's hands, for it was plainly foreseeable that some might be so stranded. That the parties were neglectful, however, did not repair the absence of the elements, fixed by statutes, which were essential here to the formation of a contract casting liability on the city: a public bidding procedure, as the estimated cost of the contemplated work might exceed $2,000; 8 a writing and other formalities as required for a contract of that size; 9 an official acting for the city who was...

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19 cases
  • Ciummei v. Com.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • 25 Julio 1979
    ...the master's detailed subsidiary findings, but taking an independent view of the conclusion to be drawn (see Central Tow Co. v. Boston, 371 Mass. 341, 342, 357 N.E.2d 310 (1976)), we agree, as did the single justice, with the master's conclusion that the defendant "with reasonable knowledge......
  • Am. Honda Fin. Corp. v. City of Revere
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Massachusetts
    • 8 Julio 2020
    ...for storage, or, owners seeking to reclaim their vehicles and money paid to a towing garage. See, e.g., Central Towing Co. v. City of Boston, 371 Mass. 341, 357 N.E.2d 310, 311 (1976) ; Baillargeon v. Kazanjians Garage Inc., No. 07-10062, 2008 Mass.App.Div. 52, 2008 WL 466579, at *1 (Mass. ......
  • Urban Transport, Inc. v. Mayor of Boston
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • 17 Noviembre 1977
    ...the city is not formed until the necessary statutory requirements are fulfilled. 7 Central Tow Co. v. Boston, --- Mass. ---, --- a, 357 N.E.2d 310 (1976). As we stated in Richard D. Kimball Co. v. Medford, 340 Mass. 727, 729, 166 N.E.2d 708, 710 (1960): "It is familiar law that one dealing ......
  • Paris Paper Box Co. v. City of Boston
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • 11 Abril 1979
    ...173 N.E.2d 290 (1961); Police Commr. of Boston v. Boston, 343 Mass. 480, 485, 179 N.E.2d 324 (1962); Central Tow Co. v. Boston, 371 Mass. 341, 344 n.9, 357 N.E.2d 310 (1976); a Urban Transport, Inc. v. Mayor of Boston, 373 Mass. ---, --- - --- B, 369 N.E.2d 1135 (1977). Compare United State......
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