Mass. AG suing driving school

Bryan Cohen May 18, 2012, 7:20am


BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced on Tuesday that a Weymouth driving school has had its financial assets frozen and faces approximately $100,000 in restitution after allegedly closing abruptly and abandoning its students.

Wood's South Shore Auto School Inc. and owner Thomas J. Ford allegedly failed to provide students with one driving hour per week as was promised in the handbook the school provided. In Massachusetts, vehicle operators under the age of 18 must complete driver's education, including 12 hours of instruction behind the wheel, to take a road test or become a licensed driver.

Coakley filed a lawsuit against the defendants on Thursday in Suffolk County Superior Court.

"We allege that this business did not provide the driving hours promised and paid for by its customers," Coakley said. "This business allegedly took advantage of young people trying to earn driver's licenses which are needed for after-school jobs and other activities crucial to success after high school."

By not providing the promised amount of driving instruction, many students allegedly failed to complete their driver's education in a timely manner. Multiple students allegedly had trouble scheduling one driving hour per month and at least one student could only schedule one driving hour over the course of six months.

In November, Ford allegedly indicated to the Registry of Motor Vehicles that Wood's Auto School could no longer schedule driving hours because the company's vehicles were totaled by vandals on Halloween night. The school's insurer had allegedly already paid Wood's Auto School approximately $26,000 to repair the vehicles. Ford closed the school at the end of November, allegedly selling the totaled vehicles and some office supplies and completing loan payments on a fifth vehicle, an undamaged Ford Mustang. Ford allegedly uses the car for personal use and transferred its title from the school into his name. None of the school's students have received refunds.

Coakley's office received nearly 30 complaints against the school and alleges that approximately 200 students are owed approximately $61,000 for undelivered services. A temporary restraining order filed on Thursday prohibits Ford from destroying business related documents or dissipating any assets. Ford has also had his bank accounts frozen at two local banks.

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