A slew of former Hertz Car Rental customers are suing the company for allegedly having them falsely arrested and jailed.
More than 165 customers from Delaware, California, Florida, Illinois and other states have come forward filing legal complaints against Hertz. Each of them claiming to have rented cars from the company only to be stopped, arrested, and sometimes jailed over accusations that the vehicle was reported missing.
The customers who each have rental agreements and bank statements to prove their innocence say that Hertz’s unreliable system and filing of false stolen car reports is to blame. For instance, James Tolen of Houston recalled being stopped by police last year, just two days before Christmas.
“It was just terrifying. It was bad. Actually, I was really thinking that I wasn’t gonna make it home,” he recounted to CBS News. Tolen and his wife, Krystal Carter, say they rented from Hertz at least twelve times that year.
Tolen, who was just leaving a contracting gig, said the officers had their guns drawn as they ordered him to exit the vehicle, lift his shirt to show he was not in possession of a weapon, and slowly make his way towards them during the traffic stop.
When officers handcuffed Tolen and explained he had been pulled over because the vehicle was listed as stolen he was perplexed. He said officers immediately saw him as a “felon” but that perception changed when Tolen showed the officers his rental agreement that listed him as an authorized driver.
“That’s when I heard officers telling them [Hertz] ‘Do you know what you guys put this guy through? He’s here for a stolen vehicle, his contract is valid, we’re going to give him back the vehicle, and you guys need to get a better system,” he explained.
In Delaware, Hanna “John” Ayoub said his 2019 long-term vehicle rental with the company turned into a nightmare that cost him everything. Ayoub made weekly payments of $300 to extend his truck rental, each time he saw the funds deducted from his account and received Hertz confirmation of his rental being in good standing.
But he was dumbfounded when Hertz notified him that he was no longer an authorized driver, just one day after confirming his third rental extension. A month later he was arrested and charged with car theft in Delaware and New Jersey. He would spend three months behind bars.
“They [Hertz] said that they had no record of the extension on the vehicle despite speaking to them a day before and receiving confirmation,” he told the digital journal Delaware Online.
“Everything just turned into a nightmare from that point onward. I lost everything, my life, my reputation, everything.” His case was later dismissed after review of bank statements, rental agreements, and Ayoub’s recordings of his calls to extend the rental week-by-week.
Hertz, however, is standing by its stolen car reports, saying: “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.”
Last year when the coronavirus pandemic hit, Hertz filed bankruptcy in an effort to restructure its financials as the car rentals his a screeching halt.
Along with that filing came the firing of 12,000 employees in the U.S. and furloughing at least 4,000. This past week the plaintiffs in the false stolen cars claims were in a Wilmington, Delaware, courtroom trying to persuade the bankruptcy judge to allow their cases to go forward as Hertz was trying to get them tossed.
A company spokesperson continued, “Situations where vehicles are reported to the authorities are very rare and happen only after exhaustive attempts to reach the customer.” Pennsylvania attorney Alexander Malofiy, representing several complainants, says at the end of the day Hertz needs to be held accountable for falsifying police reports.
“If you’re misstating half of the equation there in the police report and you’re telling police this person owes us money when in fact Hertz was fully paid that’s a serious failure,” said Malofiy to KATV-ABC 7. “What we have seen is that all of these police reports are unverified, all of them have false information including back-dating rental extensions and falsifying payment information.”
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, cases of pay disputes between customers and Hertz can be escalated “by filing a stolen-vehicle report, with the potential of involving police. There is no mention on the rental contract that a late car could lead to jail time.”
“We maintain significant documentation relevant to the law enforcement referral, including the rental contract, payment history, and a summary of communications with the customer,” said a Hertz spokesperson.