The plaintiff Hanlon damaged his car in an accident and had it towed to New England Body Works, a repair shop. The repair shop prominently posted its service and storage rates. By the time the plaintiff’s insurer, Commonwealth, declared the car “totaled,” it had accrued several thousand dollars in storage and service charges. New England Body Works asserted its statutory lien over the vehicle and refused to release it to Commonwealth until Commonwealth paid the charges in full. Hanlon sued Commonwealth when it deducted those charges from the insurance proceeds, and New England Body Works was joined as a third-party defendant. The district court held that New England Body Works violated Mass. Gen. L. c. 93A by “overcharging,” despite evidence that the charges were similar to prices for similar services in neighboring businesses. The court determined its own level of “appropriate” charges and awarded treble damages and attorneys fees. The court also found that the garage owner’s legitimate use of statutory garage keeper’s lien was “extortion,” and an abuse of an uneven balance of power between the garage and consumers or their insurers.
In its brief NELF argued that New England Body Works’ legitimate exercise of statutory rights cannot violate c. 93A absent special unconscionable circumstances, not present here. Furthermore, NELF argued, c. 93A does not regulate market prices, and public policy favors a market solution to any imbalances in power between garage keepers and their customers, putting more responsibility on consumers to make fiscally appropriate choices. The Appellate Division disagreed with NELF, holding that "unfair" use of lawful statutory lien rights could violate c. 93A. However, the Court agreed that the evidence did not support a finding that the storage fees were excessive, and that the lower court's determination of so-called reasonable rates "was purely speculative."