Joel Ramer and his girlfriend got stuck off-roading this old Jeep Cherokee on a powerline road in Walpole, Massachusetts last week. Seems egregious that he was arrested for trespassing and disturbing the peace, but the $48,000 recovery charge is downright offensive.

It’s unclear whether Ramer got slapped with a trespassing charge after calling for help, or if somebody spotted and busted him while he was screwing around in the mud. And yeah, you can be jailed for that in Massachusetts.

But after Walpole PD rolled up on him Fox25 says the cops called what is presumably their go-to recovery outfit, Assured Collision, to pull the mired vehicle out.

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After spending twelve hours on the job, Assured Collision lugged the Jeep XJ to their facility. Ramer went to collect it and was given a bill for $48,000 instead.

How the person behind their desk told him that with a straight face we’ll never know, but Fox detailed what Ramer was being charged for:

“Assured Collision billed him $16,000 for an on-scene supervisor at $1,250 an hour. He is being charged more than $10,000 for an off-road recovery incident response unit. There is also a $5,000 fee for dangerous condition liability insurance. All the equipment and manpower totaled $48,835 for the 12 hour job.”

There was also talk of “hazardous material” conditions and proximity to powerlines adding to the danger of the scene.

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Before we start tearing into the ridiculousness of all that I can tell you Massachusetts’ Statewide Towing Association has already responded to the Fox report; “some of the line items in the bill exceed industry standards and some of those line items they’d never even heard of.”

Some of the items They say? Everything about Mr. Ramer’s situation seems excessive.

I could see it taking two drunk teenagers 12 hours to get a Jeep XJ out of a bog, but a professional recovery crew? Maybe if you count the time they must have spent going out to buy a new truck they effectively billed Ramer for.

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Ten grand for an “off-road recovery incident response unit?” You could buy another Jeep about ten times nicer than the one we’re seing here for that.

But this “dangerous conditions liability” line might be the most ridiculous. Proximity to powerlines does not make conditions dangerous. You’re in proximity to powerlines every time you go on the sidewalk.

Yes, operating aerial ladders and cranes near such lines could collide with a line and cause a problem. Nothing like that would have been needed to yank this old Jeep out of a mud pit.

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Though now that I think about it, maybe they really did spend $10,000 on a “recovery unit” and rented a skyscraper-building crane for the task. But that would not have made a whole lot of sense, when a Jeep like this only weighs about 3,000 pounds and could probably have been pulled out with a John Deere tractor and a little determination.

Apparently quite a few people agree with my assessment because Assured Collision of Walpole’s Yelp! rating is plummeting as people get wind of this story.

But wait! The shop has offered a rebuttal already. They say the picture we screencapped above does not “accurately reflect the dangerous conditions their crew endured.” Something about a swamp and poison ivy.

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Indeed; one of the last lines in the Fox News broadcast recites a statement from Assured Collision’s owner citing “his workers exposure to poison ivy” as a hazard. Poison ivy; an irritant you can encounter anywhere in Massachusetts and only hope protect yourself from by wearing pants.

Assured Collision has reportedly placed a lien on the Jeep, which owner Joel Ramer says has a broken frame, leaf springs, and drive shaft after the bogging and subsequent recovery. We don’t have to split hairs over the fact that his vehicle is unibody and technically does not have a frame to determine he’s getting screwed and probably would’t want to pay a cent for a truck that’s worth about $100 at this point.

More on this story as it develops, because I’m damn sure curious.

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Two morals here so far: don’t off-road where you don’t have permission, and for the love of god call your friends before you call the cops when you get yourself stuck in bog. Also, learn how to use a winch.

Image via Fox25 broadcast


Contact the author at andrew@jalopnik.com.