Judge puts brakes on a $1,300 Porsche

Judge puts brakes on a $1,300 Porsche
From the January 2, 2004 print edition – Heard Along the Coast.

  • French hair salon owner Didier Desvigne of Miami suffers from a bad case of towing blues. Some guy in Alabama bought Desvigne’s $85,000 Porsche 911 Turbo for $1,300 – towing and storage fees – at an auction at Downtown Towing on Feb. 28, 2001.
  • On Dec. 17, however, the 3rd District Court of Appeal ordered Downtown to either return the 911 to Desvigne with depreciation damages or pay him the value of the car on its auction date. Lawyers for both sides tell quite different stories. But they agree the cops busted Desvigne on Jan. 16, 2001, for reckless driving. Downtown Towing impounded the car.
  • Desvigne at the time didn’t speak English. He bought the car in France. His ownership documents remained in French. But Miami lawyer Marcelle B. Poirier, who helped Desvigne get a visa, volunteered to bail out the 911. The Porsche plot took twists and turns.
  • Poirier said he exchanged four letters with Downtown’s lawyer, Paul Sasso, even translating ownership documents into English. “Sasso kept saying our documents weren’t enough,” Poirier said.
  • But the 3rd DCA reversed now-retired Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Eleanor Schockett’s judgment favoring Downtown, which included awarding the Miami towing concern $21,000 in legal fees and costs. Sasso said the car’s roof was caved in and only worth about $25,000.
  • “Absurd,” countered Poirier, who said on the last day of the two-day trial, the car appeared for the court to view on a flatbed from Alabama. “Didn’t look damaged to me.”
  • Sasso said he’s demanding the 3rd DCA rehear the case. The average retail value of the car today : between $60,000 and $70,000, online market data shows.
  • Stephen Van Drake