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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Filed Under: car theft, record keeping, rental cars, wrongful arrest
Companies: hertz


Reader Comments

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2021 @ 1:51pm

    Lets see if Hertz's disparaging the lawyers going after them in court, is a winning move.

    Announcer Voice It wasn't.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 22 Nov 2021 @ 2:01pm

    Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Thrice is a pattern. Four times or more, it’s an institution. But when a thing happens more than 100 times, it’s practically standard operating procecdure.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 22 Nov 2021 @ 2:09pm

    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.

    Or did you just lose the records again?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    David, 22 Nov 2021 @ 2:15pm

    Oddly European headline

    "More Than 100 Hertz Customers": shouldn't that be "More than 120 Hertz Customers" in the United States?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2021 @ 2:33pm

    Re: Oddly European headline

    Hertz does call the cops on vehicle renters with frequency...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 22 Nov 2021 @ 2:35pm

    "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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 22 Nov 2021 @ 3:04pm

    Re:

    Yeah, kinda hard to believe a company that couldn't be bothered to find a record to exonerate a customer wrongly found guilty of murder that it's the customers in the wrong because their records system is first-rate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 22 Nov 2021 @ 3:08pm

    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!'

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Old Dude, 22 Nov 2021 @ 3:34pm

    Hertz could hire Cochran!

    Maybe Hertz can get OJ to get Cochran to defend them! "If the receipt we can't attest, then the renter must face arrest!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Thad (profile), 22 Nov 2021 @ 3:41pm

    Re: Oddly European headline

    God damn, they're being sued by a hundred and twenty customers per second?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2021 @ 4:12pm

    Re: Re: Oddly European headline

    that's the 120-cycle hum you hear.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    TaboToka (profile), 22 Nov 2021 @ 4:15pm

    For the love of all that is good and holy

    Note to self: NEVER RENT FROM HERTZ if I ever go back to traveling for business again, but probably not because this work from home and not wearing shoes thing is pretty sweet okay thanks byyyyyyeee!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2021 @ 4:20pm

    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 ...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2021 @ 4:24pm

    Re: Re: Wrong embedded link?

    unless it is just meant as generally related to Hertz' corporate condition. It is merely attached to "Hertz", and not text indicating a particular incident.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2021 @ 4:25pm

    Re: For the love of all that is good and holy

    be careful if you have long, dirty toenails, or if someone might characterize you that way, because reasons.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2021 @ 5:13pm

    JFC America scares me sometimes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    DeComposer (profile), 22 Nov 2021 @ 5:39pm

    Re: Oddly European headline

    Hmmmmmmmmmmm...
    🤔

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2021 @ 6:03pm

    Re: Oddly European headline

    They also missed out on the "Hertz-donut" byline

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 22 Nov 2021 @ 6:45pm

    Re:

    It's why I've started to watch Horror movies: real life is so much scarier that I'm really just enjoying Horror movies for the story now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Bobvious, 22 Nov 2021 @ 11:46pm

    Record keeping so bad it Hertz.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 23 Nov 2021 @ 12:39am

    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.'

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Nov 2021 @ 4:25am

    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"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 23 Nov 2021 @ 11:31am

    Hell, I know of at least one cinematic serial killer who would absolutely be on board with Medicare For All: John “Jigsaw” Kramer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. icon
    WarioBarker (profile), 23 Nov 2021 @ 12:32pm

    Re: 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!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. icon
    WarioBarker (profile), 23 Nov 2021 @ 12:36pm

    Re: Re: NOTHING GOOD COMES OR HAPPENS EASILY

    ...oh.

    The comment I replied to is gone.

    All my being snarky to a scam spammer, and now it looks like I'm responding to the article.

    :(

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Bobvious, 23 Nov 2021 @ 1:36pm

    Re: Re: Re: NOTHING GOOD COMES OR HAPPENS EASILY

    All my being snarky to a scam spammer, and now it looks like I'm responding to the article.

    :(

    It's all good. We know how the system works. Your reply was sufficiently formatted.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. icon
    Wyrm (profile), 26 Nov 2021 @ 10:28am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    AlexisR200, 27 Nov 2021 @ 11:56pm

    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!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. icon
    Thad (profile), 30 Nov 2021 @ 8:54pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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