The constitutionality of the public sale provisions of the Garage Keepers Lien Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:44-20 et seq. , is at issue. The automobiles of both plaintiffs were retained by garage keepers after repairs. Repair bills were disputed and not paid. Plaintiff Coston's automobile is still retained. Plaintiff Whitmore's automobile was sold at public sale and title transferred by defendant Division of Motor Vehicles.
The Garage Keepers Lien Act is declaratory of a common law right of lien upon enhancement of the value of a chattel by work and materials, an extension of the common law artisan's and farrier's liens. Crucible Steel Co. v. Polack Tyre & Rubber Co. , 92 N.J.L. 221, 227 (E. & A. 1918); White v. Smith , 44 N.J.L. 105, 109 (Sup. Ct. 1882); cf. Ferrante v. Foley , 49 N.J. 432, 437 (1967); National State Bank v. Rapp , 49 N.J. 457, 459 (1967);
Diesel v. Associates Fin. Serv. , 125 N.J. Super. 53, 55 (App. Div. 1973); Onondaga Truck Lease Inc. v. Hovell , 107 N.J. Super. 463, 465 (Cty. Ct. 1969), aff'd 111 N.J. Super. 549 (App. Div. 1970). The garage keeper's possessory lien until payment for repairs made to a motor vehicle is not challenged in this action.
Plaintiffs attack the validity of N.J.S.A. 2A:44-29, 30, 31 which provides for a public sale after 30 days' retention by the garage keeper:
If no proceedings are taken for the repossession of the motor vehicle or part thereof by the owner, such property so held by the garage keeper shall, after the expiration of 30 days from the date of the detention, be sold at public auction, subject to any prior lien, title or interest held by virtue of a prior conditional sale or a prior chattel mortgage properly recorded.
Notice of the sale, under section 2A:44-29 of this title shall be published for 2 weeks at least once in each week, in some newspaper circulating in the municipality in which the garage is situate and not less than 5 days' notice of such sale shall be given by posting the notice in 5 public places in said municipality.
The proceeds of the sale shall be applied to the payment of the lien and the expenses of the sale. The balance, if any, shall be paid to the owner of the motor vehicle, or part thereof. The balance, if not claimed by the owner within 60 days after sale, shall be paid to the municipality, in which the garage is situated, for the support of the poor.
An alternative procedure prior to the expiration of 30 days is available to the owner of the vehicle under N.J.S.A. 2A:44-23, 24, 25, 26 and 27.
The owner or the person entitled to the immediate possession of the motor vehicle or part thereof so detained, may, on learning of the detention of the same, immediately demand from the garage keeper or the person in charge thereof, a statement of the true amount claimed to be due for the storing, maintaining, keeping or repairing of such motor vehicle, or for furnishing gasoline, accessories or other supplies therefor. If upon receiving such statement he considers the amount thereof excessive, he may offer what he considers to be reasonably due and demand possession of the motor vehicle or part thereof so detained. If possession is refused, he may obtain possession thereof by depositing the amount claimed in the statement with the clerk of a court of competent jurisdiction in the
county where the motor vehicle or part thereof may be, together with $10 to cover the costs of court in an action in the county ...