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Lawsuit Alleges Hertz Had Legitimate Customers Arrested for Rental Car Theft

A lawsuit just filed with over 20 claimants accuses Hertz of reporting many false rental car thefts with legitimate customers getting jailed on felony charges — sometimes for months. Hertz denies these claims. 

The suit accuses Hertz of “dishonestly and maliciously turning potential civil disputes” into criminal theft cases. It summarizes what Hertz allegedly does that gets customers arrested. According to the lawsuit, Hertz creates a “theft package” that is sent to police to report the theft of a vehicle. The package includes information about the renter, the rental agreement and any extensions, and payment information. However, the lawsuit alleges sometimes Hertz’s system alters that information, so it looks like a car is overdue or missing when it isn’t — consequently making the renter look like they stole the car.

Lawsuit claims Hertz’s ‘computer and inventory tracking systems are broken’

Hertz Rental Counter
The offsite Hertz car rental counter at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport | Getty Images

Besides the customer arrests, the suit claims Hertz’s inventory tracking system does not work. Instead of having it fixed, the suit alleges Hertz continues to falsely claim cars are stolen. In this way, Hertz is “effectively using the police, criminal justice system, and taxpayers to subsidize inventory control for a private corporation,” according to the lawsuit.

“Hertz’s policies, procedures, and practice 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 state.

Francis Alexander Malofiy, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, told Naples Daily News he’s heard from others who also claim they were unfairly arrested because of Hertz’s allegedly broken reporting system. The plaintiffs in the present case are seeking both compensatory and punitive damages. 

Moreover, this isn’t the first time Hertz has faced lawsuits like this over claims of false car theft. Some cases have gone in Hertz’s favor while the company has lost or settled others. Malofiy has represented some of these customers.

Malofiy claimed Hertz is treating the criminal justice system like a “repo service” and saving “millions upon millions of dollars it would otherwise have to spend updating its broken systems and paying corporate security personnel to verify the thousands of theft reports it makes every year.”

Hertz disputes the claims

Rental cars at San Diego International Airport
Rental cars at San Diego International Airport | Getty Images

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Hertz has issued a statement denying the claims in the lawsuit. 

“We have compiled significant evidence and will vigorously defend our case in court,” the statement 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.”

The company continued, saying it considers bringing in authorities only as a “last resort” once other options to recover a vehicle have failed. 

“Alerting the authorities typically only happens at the end of an extensive, multi-week process that includes phone calls, texts, emails, and certified letters asking the customer to return the vehicle,” according to the company’s statement.