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- Apr 5, 2006
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A lawsuit just filed with over 20 claimants accuses Hertz of reporting many false car thefts with the legit customers getting jailed on felony charges. Sometimes incarceration lasts for months for legitimately renting the car. There are instances where the customer was “being held at gunpoint for car theft.” One even had a heart attack from the trauma. So the bottom line is Hertz has customers arrested for stealing rental cars they legitimately rented.
The suit accuses current executives, directors, and some investors of “dishonestly and maliciously turning potential civil disputes” into criminal theft cases. It summarizes what Hertz does that gets customers arrested. It creates a “theft package” when a vehicle is missing or overdue. This will include information about the last driver and the car. Hertz tells police that the rental was never paid for even when it was. Then, agents go to the Hertz computer system and secretly delete any rental extensions given in some cases.
Hertz is “using the Police criminal justice system to prop up its inventory control.”
Besides the customer arrests, the suit claims that Hertz’s inventory tracking system does not work. Instead of having it fixed it continues to falsely claim the car is stolen. In this way, Hertz is “effectively using the Police criminal justice system along with taxpayer’s money to prop up its inventory control.”
“Hertz’s policies, procedures and practices disproportionately condemn poor minorities to prison and prosecution, while presuming their guilt. Many of these innocent individuals — lacking money and access to effective legal services — remain wrongfully imprisoned for months as their cases slowly wind their way through the courts,” court filings stated.
Of course, Hertz disputes the claims. It says in a statement, that it has “extensively reviewed the lawsuit and strongly disputes the claims. We have compiled significant evidence and will vigorously defend our case in court,” Hertz said. “The vast majority of the claims involve renters whose arrests resulted from their failure to return rented vehicles for weeks past their due date, in violation of the rental agreement and despite our repeated attempts to communicate with them about the status of the vehicle.”
Plaintiffs are seeking both compensatory and punitive damages
Francis Alexander Malofiy, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, said, “They know what they are doing,” he said of the company. “They know what they’re doing is wrong.” As more victims find out about the suit they join it. He thinks soon it could double in size. Plaintiffs are seeking both compensatory and punitive damages.
The strange thing is that this is not the first time Hertz has been accused of this. Numerous lawsuits have been filed with some going in Hertz’s favor and some to plaintiffs. In most cases the false arrests happened because Hertz’s computer system compiled the wrong payment information. It would delete rental extension information and other renter information.
The other problem is that once the theft packages are compiled no one gives them a last look for review before being filed with the police. In a profile in USA Today, a woman from Florida spent more than 170 days in jail “solely as a result of Hertz’s false police report.” The rental extension she received was not part of the package turned into police about the case.
Malofiy says that in effect Hertz uses the criminal court system as a “repo service” because it loses track of its cars, customer info, or both. With the police on the hunt, it saves Hertz millions in hiring their own people to sort out lost rental cars and customer info. Also, Malofiy says Hertz’s recent bankruptcy filing is partly due to the mounting lawsuits over false imprisonment.