Morris settles: Lethal to pay back towees

It's a rare man who agrees to pay for ads that invite people to sue him– but then, George Morris has never been one to follow the crowd. Take his many turns in this column, for instance; I've written about Morris and his business, Lethal Wrecker, so many times now that he's become a semi-permanent fixture.

But maybe not for long. Thanks to the City's suit against Morris, which I described earlier this year ["Brass Action," January 13], I think it's a safe bet that Lethal will no longer be overcharging customers– or, at least, customers being towed from private property.

That was the basis for the suit, which was scheduled to begin June 6 in Charlottesville Circuit Court. Instead, Morris voluntarily agreed to comply with the City's demands.

Specifically, Morris has agreed to stop charging more than state law allows: $85 for a basic tow, plus another $10 between 7pm and 8am or on weekends or holidays and $10 per day for storage after 24 hours.

Morris has also agreed to issue written receipts (which Lethal employees have sometimes been reluctant to produce) and to keep all receipts on file for at least two years.

Next, Morris will pay for the City to run an ad (in at least one paper once a week for up to three weeks) that invites anyone who's been overcharged to contact the City Attorney's office. To quality, you need to meet three conditions:

* you were towed between January 1, 2004 and June 6, 2005,

* you provide a written receipt or sworn affidavit attesting to the circumstances and amount of your tow, and

* you come forward before November 19, 2005.

Morris will be given the opportunity to challenge any of the claims presented to the City and request a hearing. Then, within 90 days of the November 19 deadline, the Court will issue a list of people to be reimbursed and Lethal will "promptly" issue payment for the amount of overcharge. (Towees can still pursue a $500 payout already mandated by state law by pursuing a separate civil claim.)

As for the future, if any Lethal employee charges more than the state limit and gets caught, Morris has agreed to pay the City $1,000 per instance: $500 to the Literacy Fund and $500 to the general fund.

And finally, he has agreed to pay the City $862 for its costs in the case– even though, as specified in Paragraph 6, his voluntary compliance shouldn't be seen as admission of guilt.

Lisa Kelley, deputy city attorney, will be contacting people who have obtained judgments against Lethal but haven't yet collected. (In the past, collecting has meant a separate suit to garnish Lethal's account at Provident Bank.)

I left a message for Morris, asking whether he'd like to comment, but he declined to return my call.


From mulch to meat

 I was intrigued to learn that Steve Adkins was the star of a recent Dish column ["Avon Calling," June 9], which detailed his success as owner of Pig Daddy's BBQ. In his last incarnation, Adkins appeared a few times in this column, as owner of Lakeview Landscaping.

Adkins' explanation for his former enterprise's failure didn't set well with Chris Grimm, who called to ask whether I thought Adkins would channel any of Pig Daddy's profits to Lakeview customers who claim he owes them money. Grimm is one, and he's not alone; I wrote about Lakeview customers several times in 2002 and 2003.

In the Dish column, Adkins blamed Lakeview's demise on the drought. At the time, however, I don't believe he offered that as an excuse for his difficulties (although I do remember other excuses). Hoping for answers, I left a message at Pig Daddy's– but my call, like my call to Lethal boss Morris, went unreturned.

Do you have a consumer problem or question? Email the Fearless Consumer, write her at 100 Second Street NW, 22902, or call 295-8700 ext. 406.

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