ATLANTA (AP) — Property owners don't have a common-law right to boot unauthorized vehicles on their premises, Georgia's highest court ruled Tuesday.
Forrest Allen had sued the owner and operator of a DeKalb County shopping center and several of its tenants after his vehicle was immobilized in February 2018 and he was required to pay $650 to have the boot removed.
The defendants argued on appeal before the Georgia Supreme Court that they had a common-law right to remove vehicles trespassing on their property. They also cited the centuries-old doctrine of "distress damage feasant," which recognizes a landowner's right to contain trespassing livestock and hold it until the animal's owner can be determined and pays the landowner for damage, according to the opinion.
The high court rejected those arguments, saying that the neither that doctrine nor the right to remove trespassing vehicles gives property owners the right to immobilize vehicles on their property.
"Indeed, there appears to be no legal authority recognizing a common-law right to immobilize unauthorized vehicles located on private property and hold them against the owner's will until payment is received," Justice Shawn LaGrua wrote.
Some municipalities in Georgia do have ordinances that specifically allow the booting of unauthorized vehicles, but that is not the case everywhere.