First American Bank, N.A. v. District of Columbia Case Brief

Summary of First American Bank, N.A. v. District of Columbia , DC Court of Appeals, 1990, 583 A.2d 993

P, Appellant= First American

D, Appellee= DC

Procedural history: P appeals ruling of DC trial court. Trial court found that D were gratuitous bailees, and liable for only gross negligence, and that P was contributorily negligent.

Facts: P’s courier bank parked the bank’s vehicle in a no-parking zone, which he had done and been ticketed for before. When the towing company came, it refused to allow the courier to drive the vehicle away or to remove the locked dispatch bags from the vehicle. When the bank retrieved the vehicle from impoundment, one of the bags was missing. The bank brought an action against the district and the towing company for breach of bailment and conversion. The trial court found in favor of the district and towing company.

Issues: Was there substantial benefit as to create a bailment for hire? >Yes.

Did D exercise reasonable care? >Remanded for decision by lower court.

Did conversion occur when district towed the vehicle? >No.

Holding: On appeal, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part. 1) The district’s impoundment of the vehicle involved a mutual benefit and so created a quasi bailment for hire. The district and towing company thus were obliged to exercise ordinary care toward the vehicle. 2) The illegal parking did not constitute contributory negligence or assumption of the risk. 3) No conversion occurred because the district had authority to tow the vehicle. The court remanded with directions to the trial court to determine whether the district and towing company had exercised reasonable care.

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