Suit Against Waltham Dunkin' Donuts Claims Predatory Towing
Suit also claims Newton towing firm participated in scheme.
A New Jersey man has filed suit against a Waltham-based Dunkin' Donuts and Newton-based towing company claiming his car was illegally towed.
Michael Brendzel, 63, of Millburn, NJ, also claimed the Dunkin' Donuts at 859 Main St. in Waltham, along with David’s Towing are conspiring in a “predatory towing” scheme, according to a complaint he filed in Middlesex Superior Court on July 13.
“This is just a scam that, in my opinion, cannot be allowed to continue,” Brendzel, an attorney, told Patch in an interview.
Patch left a phone message with David’s Towing, but never received a response.
Dunkin' Donuts, through a spokesman, declined comment, saying it was company policy to not comment on pending lawsuits. The 859 Main St. location is franchisee-owned by Randy Plante, but Dunkin' Donuts declined to put Patch in touch with him. Other attempts to reach Plante were unsuccessful.
Dunkin' Donuts, however, denies Brendzel’s claims, according to court documents.
Background On Lawsuit Incident (Source: Brendzel’s court complaint and interview with Brendzel)
- At 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 21, 2010, Brendzel and his son, whom he was visiting, drove to the Dunkin' Donuts at 859 Main St., for a cup of coffee, and parked their vehicle in its parking lot. Brendzel’s son as interning with a Waltham-based private equity firm at the time.
- The pair went inside, purchased coffee and, as they exited the building, noticed people smoking and loitering in the parking lot. As a result, Brendzel and his son, who suffers from asthma, left the Dunkin' Donuts premises to consume their beverages.
- Despite leaving the area, Brendzel still contends he was illegally towed. “As the complaint specifically says, I had come back still holding the … coffee in my hand,” Brendzel said. “Since I was a customer… that should not absolve them of the protection [against having his vehicle towed] I am entitled to.”
- About 20 minutes later, Brendzel and his son returned to the Dunkin' Donuts and found their car attached to a tow truck owned by David’s Towing.
- Brendzel asked the driver of the truck, Michael Proia, what he was doing and to provide legal basis for towing the vehicle, but Proia declined.
- At 10:54 p.m., the Waltham Police arrived and Brendzel asked Proia to release his car and provide the legal basis for trying to tow it. Brendzel also asked the officer to provide the legal basis for towing the vehice as well as release the car. Both the officer and tow truck driver declined Brendzel's requests.
- Proia said he would only release the car if Brendzel paid a $45 unhitching fee, which Brendzel paid. Brendzel, however, but felt the fee amounted to extortion.
- Police then arrested Brendzel for disorderly conduct and his vehicle was towed to David’s Towing storage lot. Court documents don’t state why Brendzel was arrested.
- After being released on bond, Brendzel returned to the Dunkin' Donuts at 1:30 a.m. and spoke to two Dunkin' Donuts employees and asked them to preserve surveillance footage of the store and area around it. Later in the morning, the shop’s manager agreed to do so.
- On Aug. 22, Brendzel went to David’s Towing storage lot and paid $125 to recover his vehicle.
- On Aug. 23, Brendzel was arraigned at Waltham District Court, and declined the prosecutor’s offer to drop the charges if Brendzel paid a $100 court fee. Brendzel claimed that offer was unfair because he believed his car was unlawfully towed and the charges against him were baseless. Brendzel felt the offer amounted to extortion.
Brendzel’s Evidence (Source: Brendzel’s court complaint)
To back up his claims, Brendzel cites several pieces of evidence.
- Evidence: Brendzel claims that on Sept. 4, he and his son went back to the parking lot and met a man named “Jeffrey,” who allegedly claimed he acted as spotter, reporting towing opportunities to David’s Towing. Jeffrey claimed he received payment for each report.
- Evidence: Brendzel claims the police report about his car being towed falsely states a Dunkin' Donuts manager named Ricky authorized Brendzel’s car being towed, but no manager was on the premises at the time of the incident. Brendzel claims David’s Towing and Proia falsified the report so they could take Brendzel’s car.
Status Of Lawsuit
- As of last week, David’s Towing had not responded to the suit, according to Brendzel’s attorney, Melissa Hoffman.
- Brendzel is asking for a jury trial and for damages and attorneys' fees and for the establishment of a fund to compensate Dunkin' Donuts customers who have gone through a similar experience.
- Brendzel has been arrested in Berkeley Heights, NJ, prior to the towing incident. According to Berkeley Heights Patch, Brendzel was arrested on Feb. 23, and charged with trespassing and harassment after he allegedly refused to leave a leave medical building after a security official told him to do so. Brendzel confirmed his February arrest to Waltham Patch and said the charges were scheduled for dismissal on Aug. 18.
- “In effect they are not proceeding with the prosecution,” Brendzel told Patch.
- Brendzel, however, declined to provide proof that the charges were dropped.
- In an interview, Brendzel said he was at the medical building to accompany his wife to chemotherapy. She had been battling ovarian cancer.
- “It is my contention that the performance of [some doctors] left a lot to be desired,” Brendzel said on why he was at the building.