MEANING OF THE WORD "GARAGE" ‑- AUTOMOBILES ‑- STORAGE GARAGE ‑- STOLEN AND ABANDONED ‑- LEFT IN GARAGE
The word "garage," as used in the last two paragraphs of RCW 46.52.110 refer to parking lots, both open-air and enclosed.
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November 15, 1956
Honorable Hugh H. Evans
Spokane County Court House
Spokane, Washington Cite as: AGO 55-57 No. 339
You requested the opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:
Does the word "garage," as used in the last two paragraphs of RCW 46.52.110, refer to parking lots, both open-air and enclosed?
We answer your question in the affirmative.
RCW 46.52.110 reads in pertinent part as follows:
"Any vehicle left in a garage for storage more than fifteen days where it has not been left by the registered owner under a contract of storage and has not during such period been removed by the person leaving it shall be an abandoned vehicle and shall be delivered to the sheriff of the county with notice of such fact. Any garage keeper failing to report such fact to the sheriff and tender delivery to him of the vehicle at the end of fifteen days shall thereby forfeit any claims for the storage of the vehicle. All vehicles considered abandoned by being left in a garage shall be disposed of in accordance with the procedure prescribed above for abandoned vehicles.
"Except for the forfeiture of claim for storage as set forth herein for failure to report a vehicle left in excess of fifteen days, nothing in this section shall be construed to impair any lien for storage accruing to a garage keeper under other law of this state."
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
A basic principle of statutory construction and one which applies in this case is well stated inCady v. Kerr, 11 Wn. (2d) 1:
"In determining the meaning of a word as used in a particular instance, regard must necessarily be had to the subject matter in connection with which it is used, and also to the context of the statute wherein it may be employed. * * *"
The subject matter of RCW 46.52.110 constitutes the establishment of means to facilitate the location and publication of stolen and abandoned cars.
One of the more common methods used by individuals who wish to abandon cars and yet desire this fact to remain unknown for as long a time as possible, is to store such cars with persons engaged in the automobile storage business.
In order to facilitate the aforementioned purpose of RCW 46.52.110 the legislature adopted paragraphs six and seven herein set out. These paragraphs require a garage keeper to deliver to the sheriff any car left with him over fifteen days by someone other than the registered owner, and failure to do so forfeits any claim for storage by the garage keeper. The purpose of the statute would be plainly frustrated if these provisions were restricted to enclosed storage garages. The strictest compliance with the statutory provisions by the operators of enclosed storage garages would not assure the authorities that stolen or abandoned cars were not parked in storage areas. Before such assurance could be had, a search of all open and partially open storage lots would be necessary. Such a narrow construction of paragraphs six and seven would render that portion of the statute an absurdity.
"A statute should not be given an interpretation which would make it an absurdity when it is susceptible of a reasonable interpretation which would carry out the manifest intent of the legislature. * * *" (Martin v. Department of Social Security, 12 Wn. (2d) 329.)
The only feasible construction to be given the word "garage" in view of the general purpose and intent of RCW 46.52.110 is stated in Rhodes v. A. Moll Grocer Co., 95 S.W. (2d) 837, 841, a Missouri case:
[[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
"Defendants contend that there is no such thing as an 'open-air garage' referred to by plaintiff in her petition, in characterizing the use defendants were making of the lot. They assert that the word 'garage' means 'an inclosed, roofed shelter for automobiles,' the same as the stable was the shelter for horses. Defendants' definition does not tally with Webster's New International Dictionary, which defines the word 'garage' to be simply 'a place for housing automobiles;' whether the roof was a man-made one, or the canopy of heaven, seems to be immaterial under the latter definition." (Emphasis supplied)
We hope this opinion will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
Assistant Attorney General