Allegations of Hertz customers getting wrongfully arrested when their vehicles are improperly reported as “stolen” are getting worse. Now, the number of people who claim they’ve been arrested under such circumstances—often at gunpoint—has risen to over 300.
In a report published today by Bloomberg Law, we learned that lawyers plan to file roughly 100 new claims of wrongful arrest against the rental car company. Prior to this, the number of customers suing Hertz over wrongful arrests stood at around 230, Bloomberg Law reports.
As we’ve previously reported, Hertz files over 3,500 stolen vehicle reports every year. One whistleblower described Hertz as using police as a repo company. Charges relating to vehicle theft can be severe—one victim of Hertz spent three months in jail despite having done nothing wrong.
Bloomberg Law details the harrowing experiences of two of the latest victims to file suit:
Jeremy Benjamin, 35, and Brittany Morgan, 32, picked up a Ford Mustang from Hertz at Houston’s airport on March 9. Hertz apparently rented the car without realizing it had the wrong license plate, according to Larry Boggus, a police officer with the city of Memorial Village, Texas. The plate had been reported stolen off a Hyundai Sonata, which is why the car was stopped in the small community in the Houston area.
“Hertz probably just failed to check the license plate when they did the rental inspection,” Boggus said in an interview. “We’ve had several stolen rentals that were not really stolen.”
The couple, who live in Naples, Florida, said they were terrified to be confronted by police with drawn weapons a few days after getting the vehicle.
“As we were returning with the car, we were pulled over and arrested at gunpoint,” Morgan wrote in a legal declaration. “It was traumatic and humiliating. The police told us that the car was stolen.”
Music video director Michael Okoasia, 29, was pulled over in Beverly Hills while leading his film crew to a gig in Southern California on Feb. 5. He was alone in the [rental] Nissan Versa while the equipment and crew followed, Okoasia said in a sworn affidavit provided to Bloomberg News.
He was handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car as part of the stop, which involved 10 officers with guns drawn, according to the statement. The Beverly Hills police were alerted after an automated license plate reader scanned the vehicle, which had been reported stolen, according to a police report.
The new lawsuits against Hertz are expected to be filed in the coming weeks. Most of them will be seen in federal court in Delaware, where Hertz filed for bankruptcy in May 2020.
An attorney representing Hertz says that the numerous arrests stem from the pre-bankruptcy Hertz corporation; Francis Malofiy, lead attorney for the customers filing suit, says that a number of these new incidents occurred after bankruptcy.
Hertz is no longer under bankruptcy protection, but a shell company is handling remaining debts. As for what this could look like in the end, attorneys representing wrongfully-arrested customers estimate Hertz could have to pay as much as $700 million to settle claims.