Earl Dickerson had his car scrapped by Wilmington and its towing contractor. Earl is a 73-year-old grandfather who is retired after a career as a graphic designer. The pandemic hit him hard financially, and Earl couldn’t afford to drive very frequently. So he left his car legally parked on his street. The city didn’t like that and left a ticket on his car demanding that he move it within seven days. Unfortunately, as Earl was dealing with a death in the family, he missed the deadline. A week later, the city towed his car and issued him a $60 ticket.
Earl accepted the ticket, paid Wilmington in full, and then went to retrieve his car from the impound lot. But, when he got there, the towing company demanded an additional $910, saying that otherwise it would not release Earl’s car. Earl absolutely did not owe any additional fees, let alone more than $900, and he couldn’t afford to pay it even if he did. There was nothing Earl could do: the towing company held his car hostage and wouldn’t release it without payment. When Earl didn’t pay the ransom, the towing company scrapped his car and kept the full value for itself.