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.