In Tyler v. City of Omaha, No. A-16-867, (Neb. Ct. App. 2018) the Nebraska Court of Appeals handled this pro se appeal.
Billy Roy Tyler (“Tyler”) filed a replevin action against the City of Omaha (“City”) seeking immediate delivery/return of his impounded 1993 Chevy pickup truck. Trial took place on August 29, 2016. Tyler testified his truck was legally parked at a street curb when “it was stolen by these people.” He claimed he had been pulled over and arrested on some miscellaneous matters which were subsequently thrown out. He said he left his truck parked legally by a curb in Omaha while he was in jail for 9 or 10 days. Just before he was released from jail, the truck was towed. Officer Alan Peatrowsky, of the Omaha Police Department, testified that on August 1, 2016, he encountered the vehicle at issue parked on a public street with fictitious plates. He said the vehicle was towed because it was unregistered on the City street.
The district court denied Tyler’s requested relief. The court concluded that although the vehicle was not illegally parked, it had been abandoned, and therefore it had not been wrongfully detained by the City. Tyler appealed.
The Court says that the findings and disposition of the trial court have the effect of a jury verdict and will not be disturbed unless clearly wrong. Tyler’s brief assigned an error which is later argued, where he says the district court erred in not ordering the immediate return of his vehicle. His support for that error rests largely on an unpublished decision, Tyler v. Siebert. This is a case where he also sued for return of his other vehicle. The circumstances are different—in this older case, he was pulled over and did not have proper registration. The officer had the vehicle towed. Tyler brought an action to recover possession of the vehicle. On appeal this Court concluded Tyler satisfied his burden of proof to show he was entitled to possession of the vehicle by ownership, so the burden of proof shifted to the City to establish a superior right of possession. This court then considered alternative means by which the City could establish a superior right of possession, but found none. Accordingly, this court concluded the City did not have a superior right of possession and that Tyler was entitled to the vehicle.
His success in the earlier case has given him the idea that he will be successful again today. In a replevin case, the Plaintiff has the burden to prove that at the time he was the owner of the property sought, he was entitled to immediate possession of the property, and the Defendant wrongfully detained it. Once the Plaintiff has made a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the Defendant.
Applying that law to the present facts, even if Tyler sufficiently proved the first two requirements for replevin, the record does not show that the City wrongfully detained his truck. Tyler’s truck was impounded because it was abandoned on a city street. The truck sat on the street for several days while Tyler was in jail. The vehicle was left curbside on a public street without valid plates, so it was properly deemed abandoned and was subject to being towed. The district court’s September 2, 2016, order denying Tyler’s replevin action was not clearly wrong and is affirmed.
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