Local hospitalized man racks up bills on stolen truck trapped in tow yard, family says company won’t budge on price

Manatee County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Herminio Gonzalez’s Mazda pickup truck was stolen from the parking lot of a Bradenton apartment complex back on Aug. 3. Police in Tampa recovered the stolen vehicle 10 days later and had it towed to a local impoundment lot.

When Gonzalez went to go pick it up, the towing company did not have the key. His family says he was going to get a new key made, but the very next day, he fell ill and ended up in the hospital. He has been there ever since.

Gonzalez is currently recovering after having a liver and kidney transplant. Meantime, the family says the cost of keeping the car at the tow yard has been racking up.

The bill was $1,800 and they charge $25 per day, so if he doesn’t get it out pretty soon, he’s just going to lose his truck pretty much, his daughter Jennifer Gonzalez said.

Jennifer Gonzalez says her dad needs his car once he is out of the hospital. It is his only way to get to and from his treatments. She feels the $1,800 charge isn’t right given her father’s situation.

“We ended up speaking with the towing company and we said physically he cannot pick up his truck. They said that there is nothing they could do because he is the only registered owner and that it is pretty much bad luck for him,” said his daughter. “To me, that makes no sense. You should try to work something out with somebody considering there’s nothing that he could do. He is stuck in a hospital bedridden.”

After having no luck getting the company to budge on the price, the Gonzalez family called 8 On Your Side for help.

“It is completely frustrating. When somebody is stuck in the hospital especially under these circumstances, he is getting another chance at life so it’s like, you think he would come out, have his truck, it got stolen in the first place, it is just the whole situation is just unfortunate,” said Jennifer Gonzalez.

8 On Your Side contacted management at the towing company, Action Towing Inc. of Tampa. News Channel 8’s Allyson Henning spoke with the company’s administrative manager over the phone Friday afternoon. She told us Action Towing understands and has empathy for the family’s situation and has been working with the family to come to a fair resolution.

The company originally agreed to settle with the Gonzalez family for $100 plus the signed title for the pickup truck. The family told 8 On Your Side that wasn’t a realistic option because it would leave Gonzalez without a vehicle.

“When he gets out of the hospital, he still has to go to dialysis three days a week, he still has to go back to Tampa General Hospital two days out of the week. He needs a vehicle,” said Jennifer Gonzalez. “I am hoping that the tow company will work with us, even if he has to pay a few hundred, I get it. It is their business at the end of the day and I completely understand that, but as far as $1800 plus that is still racking up $25 a day, to me that just makes no sense.”

We received the following email response from Action Towing’s manager explaining the situation from the company’s point of view.

Thank you for allowing me to speak to you regarding this matter. While we empathize with Mr. Gonzalez about the severe health issues he has been facing over the last couple of months, we have also tried to work with his family to come to a fair resolution.

Mr. Gonzalez’s vehicle was stolen and recovered. When the police recovered the vehicle, we were contacted on August 13th, 2020, to tow the vehicle from the scene. On August 17th, 2020, Mr. Gonzalez came to our office to pay for and pick up the vehicle. There was no key for the vehicle, so Mr. Gonzalez said that he would have a key made and then come back for the vehicle. Unfortunately, until the vehicle is paid for and picked up, we continue to go through the process as set forth through the Florida Statues for impounded vehicles.

We followed through with our service for the police department, had a vehicle remain on our property for the required amount of days by law to go to auction for the accumulated fees, paid for letters to be sent out to the owner of the vehicle, put an ad in the newspaper noting such set auction, and put the paperwork together to go to the DMV. The auction date for this vehicle was September 19th, 2020. During the length of time that the vehicle was at our yard, it accumulated daily storage fees (on top of the original tow fee) until its auction date. We are not disputing that this can be a substantial amount. Tow liens are placed on driver licenses through the DMV for unpaid balances.

However, we were not contacted by Mr. Gonzalez’s family until October 19th, 2020. I, personally, spoke to his niece on October 20th, 2020. Due to COVID-19, and the paperwork (title work packets) backed up at the DMV (which is allowing only a certain number of packets to be dropped off for processing at one time), the packet (documentation) for this vehicle was scheduled to be taken to the DMV in the latter half of this week. The Gonzalez family was offered an acceptance of $100.00 and the (signed) title for Mr. Gonzalez’s vehicle. We determined this to be fair, given his health circumstances, to cover the business costs incurred for the vehicle, and to stop the lien process.

Through 8 On Your Side, we learned that our offer was not agreeable to the family.

We sympathize that Mr. Gonzalez has suffered an unfortunate health condition, causing his hospitalization for the last two months. Although we followed the guidelines set forth by the state and had previously attempted to work with the family, we have agreed to the request of the family.

The company agreed to charge the Gonzalez family what it would have cost to pick up the truck in August if the keys would have been there as expected. In addition, the family will have to pay the price to tow the vehicle back to Sarasota County where Gonzalez lives.

The family has created a GoFundMe account to help cover the costs to get Gonzalez’s car back before he is discharged from the hospital. If you’re interested in helping, click here.

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