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Hertz to settle most false-arrest claims for $168 million

Dec. 5, 2022 Updated Mon., Dec. 5, 2022 at 6:57 p.m.

Cars are parked on a Hertz car rental lot in Berkeley, Calif., on Oct. 27, 2021.  (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)
Cars are parked on a Hertz car rental lot in Berkeley, Calif., on Oct. 27, 2021. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)
By Steven Church Bloomberg

Hertz Global Holdings will spend $168 million to settle hundreds of claims that it falsely reported rental customers to the police for car theft when a vehicle was not returned on time.

The company had been fighting to bottle up the lawsuits in bankruptcy court, but in the last few months lawyers for many claimants had won the right to take their cases before jurors. The deal will end 364 claims, or about 95% of the allegations that Hertz faces, the company said in a statement.

Hertz is likely to recover a “meaningful portion” of the settlement from its insurers, according to the statement.

Lawyers for the customers who are suing Hertz did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company’s shares closed Monday in New York down 2.96% at $16.37.

Hundreds of customers said in court papers that Hertz filed police reports against them and had them falsely arrested, often at gunpoint. A small number of those cases allege errors by Hertz employees caused police to pull over innocent customers on suspicion of driving stolen cars.

The company filed bankruptcy in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the economy and brought car rentals to a halt. Hertz exited bankruptcy oversight last year, but left a shell company behind to pay off its older, disputed debts, including the false arrest claims.

Bankruptcy courts don’t have juries, and disputes are typically settled by judges focused on rehabilitating financially distressed companies. In state courts, juries can be unpredictable, sometimes imposing steep penalties on corporations found to have harmed the public.

Hertz is the unit of Hertz Global Holdings that operates the Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty rental brands in regions that include Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa and Australia.

For years, Hertz filed thousands of criminal cases against customers annually, according to court documents.

The company says the majority involve disputes about vehicles that weren’t returned on time and likely have been stolen, and it tries to contact customers via phone calls, text messages, emails and certified letters about overdue cars and get them back through private means, working for about 63 days beyond the return date before involving police.

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