More Than 100 Hertz Customers Are Suing The Company For Falsely Reporting Rented Vehicles As Stolen

from the welcome-to-the-Hertz-Locker dept

Earlier this year, a man, wrongfully arrested and imprisoned for murder, was finally able to prove his innocence by producing rental car receipts showing he could not have possibly committed the crime. When the murder occurred, Herbert Alford was twenty minutes away from the scene of the crime, renting a car from Hertz.

He requested this exculpatory evidence from Hertz, but it took the company three years to locate the receipts that proved his innocence. All told, Alford spent five years in jail on the bogus charge. Hertz apologized for spending more than 1,000 days “searching” for the rental records, but that apology doesn’t put years back on Alford’s life, a half-decade of which he lost to the penal system for a crime he didn’t commit.

This isn’t Hertz’s only problem. The company is apparently pretty lax when it comes to record-keeping, which has resulted in people being accosted — often at gunpoint — by police officers who’ve been (wrongly) informed the rental car they’ve pulled over is stolen. The proliferation of automatic license plate readers means these stops will only become more frequent as time goes on, as hotlists hit cameras capable of collecting millions of plate/location records a year. And that proliferation comes with a cost: the potential killing of innocent people because law enforcement has been misinformed about the status of a rented car.

Hertz is apparently still trying to get people killed. As it emerges from bankruptcy, it is facing lawsuits over its potentially deadly mistakes. The company is still sending out hotlists to law enforcement, misinforming armed officers that legally-rented vehicles are actually stolen. This appears to be a long-running problem for the rental agency.

In March 2019, KATV reported that a man from Searcy had filed suit against the company after it falsely reported that a rental car had been stolen. In May 2020, Francis Alexander Malofiy, an attorney out of Pennsylvania with clients in Arkansas, filed cases against the company. The following day Hertz filed for bankruptcy.

That’s KATV’s update on some older cases. Its latest story deals with another falsely accused customer who’s now suing the company. Dozens of Hertz customers were interviewed. Many of them are currently seeking compensation via the company’s bankruptcy proceedings.

Some excerpts from those interviews:

“I was incarcerated for seven months because of Hertz, it’s not fair in the least especially when you have a receipt saying I paid you. Hertz I paid you $2,300,” said Julius Burnside.

“The police man said you stole the car and I said it’s a rental car –it’s from my company and they handle everything, I just go pick it up,” Nancy Cullen-Smits said.

“The police officer asked for my driver’s license and then when he runs my license, he says there is a warrant out for your arrest for a Hertz vehicle that was stolen,” said Michelle Jones. “I informed them I returned a Hertz vehicle two months ago and paid them $2,000 but I didn’t steal it.”

Another man who was engaged in a long-term lease contract with Hertz suffered a similar fate: a wrongful accusation and the destruction of his life by the criminal justice system.

Hanna “John” Ayoub is one of those former customers. He rented a truck in April 2019 from the Hertz Car Rental office at the Wilmington train station, a transaction that eventually turned into him being jailed for months before criminal charges against him were dropped, he said.

“I lost everything, my life, my reputation, everything,” said Ayoub, who spent some three months incarcerated after being charged with stealing the truck he had rented from Hertz, according to court documents.

Here’s another of the 165 claimants attempting to have Hertz belatedly right the wrongs its perpetrated against some of its customers.

One of the claimants, James Tolen, said a surprise traffic stop in Houston late last year turned into a frightening police encounter that made him fear for his life. After completing a project for one of the customers at his renovation company, Tolen was heading home Dec. 23 in a pickup truck rented from Hertz.

He and his fiancée, Krystal Carter, who is also a claimant, say they had rented from Hertz about a dozen times last year — but that didn’t prevent him from being stopped by police for driving a car reported stolen by the company. Around 10 p.m. that night, police pulled him over and ordered him out of the car over a loudspeaker, telling him to lift his shirt and back up toward them.

“As I turn around, I see both officers train the guns on me,” Tolen told CBS News’ Consumer Investigative Correspondent Anna Werner.

“It was just terrifying. It was bad. Actually, I was really thinking that I wasn’t gonna make it home,” he said.

Tolen, like others suing Hertz, said officers told him he was driving a stolen vehicle — a claim they made based on bad information from the rental company. Tolen managed to escape this with his life, liberty, and livelihood intact, however. It was the cops that were pissed off when Tolen showed them his rental paperwork.

Tolen begged the officers to look at his rental contract, in which he says he was listed as an authorized driver. He says after seeing the document, one of the officers called Hertz and told the company it needed to get a better system.

Hertz rents to millions of people without incident every year. But even though this only happens to what’s likely a rounding error percentage-wise, it’s still unacceptable. Mistakenly claiming someone has stolen a vehicle can lead to — at the very least — a potentially dangerous traffic stop where the truly innocent are confronted by people authorized to use deadly force and who, for the most part, assume genuine confusion is actually criminal evasion and react accordingly. Even if the outcome isn’t deadly, it can still destroy lives by feeding innocent drivers into a legal system built on the presumption of innocence but tends to ignore that fact once someone is accused of a crime.

Hertz claims this is just a bunch of scofflaws misrepresenting the inevitable outcomes of their own bad faith efforts.

“Unfortunately, in the legal matters being discussed, the attorneys have a track record of making baseless claims that blatantly misrepresent the facts,” the company said. “The vast majority of these cases involve renters who were many weeks or even months overdue returning vehicles and who stopped communicating with us well beyond the scheduled due date. Situations where vehicles are reported to the authorities are very rare and happen only after exhaustive attempts to reach the customer.”

A bunch of sworn affidavits say otherwise. If the company really wants to wade into discovery, it’s probably going to expose some shoddy recordkeeping it would rather keep hidden from current and potential customers. That this has happened so often says something specific about Hertz. No other rental company is facing similar lawsuits so it’s not speculative to infer Hertz has some internal issues that need to be addressed as it attempts to move back to profitability, if not respectability.

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Comments on “More Than 100 Hertz Customers Are Suing The Company For Falsely Reporting Rented Vehicles As Stolen”

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34 Comments
Scott Yates (profile) says:

Wrong embedded link?

the link in this text:

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20211113/10541047933/more-than-100-hertz-customers-are-suing-company-falsely-reporting-rented-vehicles-as-stolen.shtml#:~:text=He%20and%20his%20fianc%C3%A9e%2C%20Krystal%20Carter%2C%20who%20is%20also%20a%20claimant%2C%20say%20they%20had%20rented%20from%20Hertz%20about%20a%20dozen%20times%20last%20year%20%E2%80%94%20but%20that%20didn%27t%20prevent%20him%20from%20being%20stopped%20by%20police%20for%20driving%20a%20car%20reported%20stolen%20by%20the%20company.%20Around%2010%20p.m.%20that%20night

Appears to be to the wrong article?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Wrong embedded link?

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/tesla-elon-musk-model-3-hertz-deal-tweet/

did you mean this one? yeah seems wrong.

He and his fiancée, Krystal Carter, who is also a claimant, say they had rented from Hertz about a dozen times last year — but that didn’t prevent him from being stopped by police for driving a car reported …

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

"have a track record of making baseless claims that blatantly misrepresent the fact"
There is a looking in the mirror joke here I think…

You let an innocent man sit in jail for 5 years because your records were so fucked up it took you forever and a day to locate a single rental agreement… and we are to believe that all 100+ of the people coming after you were all car thieves who are just cashing in on your misfortune of being a massively shitty company rather than your shit company is unable to keep track of if & when cars are rented out and sends the cops to arrest people who were stupid enough to rent from you.

I mean did Hertz’s lawyer just say the pissed off cops who after scaring an innocent man at the behest of Hertz looked at the valid contract & then called and told you to get your shit together were liars?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Charming priorities

Customer accused of murder, company in possession of records that could exonerate them: ‘Eh, we’ll get around to it eventually if we’ve got the time.’

Customer might not have property paid for the vehicle they’re driving: ‘Get this to the police immediately and get our property back!’

Wyrm (profile) says:

Re: Charming priorities

To be honest, this is a trend in multiple domains.
Business, politics, taxes… "mistakes" are ok when made by the people on top, and are unforgivable when made by common citizens.
And the very definition of "mistake" is on a whole different level based on who made it. You made a rounding error in your tax declaration and you get a full audit, with large penalty fees. A politician "forgets" to declare millions of dollar and they get a stern talking-to.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

‘I mean sure the movie has a masked killer running around setting horrific traps and killing they people they catch in absolutely brutal fashion but at least they’re not arguing against health and safety measures in the middle of a pandemic to score political points.’

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Rumors are Hertz has been involved in some very illegal tax evasion schemes, literally underreporting revenue from entire franchises to the order of hundreds of millions a year.

Time for a full 20yr Audit, and "oh look all records vanished due to a virus hacker who got our facebook photos through the instagram-whatsapp by creating a GUI with visual basic that hooked into twitter"

WarioBarker (profile) says:

NOTHING GOOD COMES OR HAPPENS EASILY

You may be battling with your bad credit, negative items and different bills but if care is not taken depression might set in.

Joke’s on you, I already have depression. And it’s not due to my credit score.

I want to introduce CREDIT TRINITY CARE to you guys and trust me, he’s gonna help you fix your credit ASAP.

Boy, his parents must have hated him.

He’ll delete all the negatives

"Yeah, I know this guy who works in the credit bureau, he’ll "delete all the negatives" from your file."

and boast your credit score. He boasted my credit score from 400 to 790+ within few days.

Ah, I see. It’s like boasting someone up into a vent, or getting a boast from an energy drink – a typo that makes you look dumb.

I read about him on credit blog

Ah yes, the well-known Credit Blog, home of the endless spammy scammy adverts.

and discovered that he’s not one of those usual names

Well duh, the guy’s name is Credit Trinity Care.

I wish I can say everything here which is not possible

Why not? You’ve been boosting about how he’s boasted your credit. What else has ol’ CTC done for you?

but all I know is that he can be trusted

"Trust me, Credit Care’s a good guy and definitely not a spam scam to get your email address to sell to any nitwit with a nickel!"

Dickson Coleman says:

NOTHING GOOD COMES OR HAPPENS EASILY

It’s good to take risk sometimes. I’ve realized that people who do great exploits are people who take risk. Nothing good comes or happens easily. You may be battling with your bad credit, negative items and different bills but if care is not taken depression might set in. I want to introduce CREDIT TRINITY CARE to you guys and trust me, he’s gonna help you fix your credit ASAP. He’ll delete all the negatives and boast your credit score. He boasted my credit score from 400 to 790+ within few days. I read about him on credit blog and discovered that he’s not one of those usual names, so I contacted him via creditscoretrinity @ gmail . com I’m forever grateful to CREDIT TRINITY CARE. I wish I can say everything here which is not possible but all I know is that he can be trusted

AlexisR200 says:

The perfect solution:

Have the federal government mandate that all rental companies must have a 5 day grace period after a rental contract ends before reporting one of its vehicles as stolen. No argument that people could steal the vehicle and get away with it since rental companies already have all the information about their clients on file.

The penalty for failing to abide by the 5 day period? They are legally on the hook for any legal fees the wrongly accused incurs, any lost profits during their incarceration and damages proportional to the harm. ALso make it that this liability extends PERSONALLY to everyone on the management all the way up to the CEO and the debt is not dischargeable with bankruptcy.

Sounds extreme? Nah I was also thinking of having them also be jailed for the same periods as its victims in each case cumulative but decided it would gum up the courts needlessly and cost a lot to taxpayers.

I’m willing to bet that companies would fix their shit with the quickness or get the fuck out of the industry so responsible companies can rightfully take their place.

Too onerous? Nonsense! If they don’t fuck up it costs nothing at all!

Thad (profile) says:

Attorney Kate Klonick shares the story of how Hertz tried to extort her for an extra $1000 when she tried to rent a car to visit her family for Thanksgiving, and how she’s come to believe this is standard procedure and they do it on purpose.

Not as bad as being sent to jail, but you know, I’m thinking I probably won’t be renting any cars from Hertz in the foreseeable future.

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