Hertz has extended an olive branch to more aggrieved customers who have accused the company of arrests for wrongful theft of cars they legally rented.
The Estero-based company has confirmed that it has made a second round of settlement offers.
About a month ago, Hertz said it had sent out a first wave of offers to about three dozen renters “who had a negative experience.”
Another 20 offers were sent out Thursday, said Jonathan Stern, senior director of external communications at Hertz, speaking exclusively to The (Fort Myers) News-Press, part of the USA TODAY Network.
This brings the total number of proposed settlements to around 60, but there are likely more to come as the company continues to review hundreds of claims one by one.
“We continue to review claims on a case-by-case basis to ensure that each unique situation is considered on its individual merits,” Stern said. “We look forward to continuing to make progress toward resolutions in the months ahead as we move through the process.”
Previously:Florida-based Hertz offers first settlements to customers in fraudulent arrest cases
Lawsuit update:Dozens of customers sue Hertz in Delaware state court, alleging false arrests for rental car theft
A lawyer representing the plaintiffs could not immediately be reached to comment on the latest claims settlement offers.
Hundreds of customers have accused Hertz of wrongful theft arrests, filing claims in bankruptcy court for payment to cover their alleged damages.
The CEO of Hertz pledges: Hertz CEO pledges to ‘do the right thing’ to victims of fake ‘stolen car’ arrests, admits customers injured
Court case:If you rented a car from Hertz, there could be a warrant for your arrest
When Hertz emerged from bankruptcy last year, the false arrest lawsuits remained unresolved in court as the company focused on re-establishing itself as a leading car rental company.
In May 2020, when Hertz filed for Chapter 11 protection — after being hit hard by the pandemic — he faced just over 20 false arrest claims. Now there are over 300.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys estimate damages at more than $960 million, but Hertz argues that figure is overstated and exaggerated.
The alleged damages include everything from lost wages to mental anguish.
Some customers claim to have been picked up, arrested, and prosecuted for auto theft because Hertz could not locate their own vehicles after they returned.
Others have complained of various other confusions with their rental returns, extensions, or payments.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys called the issue systemic for Hertz, which the company denies.
Earlier:No rules? Hertz is still pursuing criminal charges against customers alleging false arrests
Since early April, CEO Stephen Scherr has pledged to “do right” customers harmed by Hertz’s theft reporting policies. He took the wheel as chief executive of the revamped company in February.
For Colleen Batcheler, the company’s new general counsel, reviewing cases and determining merit is a top priority.
“We are working diligently on claims,” she said. “These are very factual individual situations.”
In other words, it’s not an easy process.
“We process complaints as efficiently and quickly as possible to ensure each receives the appropriate amount of review and consideration,” Batcheler said.
In company statements, Hertz has repeatedly emphasized that it “cares deeply” about its customers and successfully provides rental vehicles “to tens of millions of travelers each year.”
Hertz said the majority of current legal claims involve renters who failed to return their car weeks or even months after the due date and stopped communicating with the company, forcing it to take action. .
The company described situations where overdue rent is reported to authorities as “very rare”.
Hertz has not publicly shared its draft settlements, which are classified as confidential.
He also did not reveal whether any of his previous offers had been accepted, or the status of the negotiations.
Under Hertz’s plan to reorganize, the settlements do not require bankruptcy court review or approval. The claims register will however be updated to reflect the withdrawal of paid claims.
A few months ago, Hertz revealed in court documents that it files about 3,365 police reports each year accusing customers of car theft.
It would mean more than 23,000 customers of the car rental company have been charged with theft in the past seven years when allegations of false arrests began to mount.
It’s unclear how many of Hertz’s theft reports might have been misclassified, as rental car theft is a real problem. The National Insurance Crime Bureau reports that approximately 30,000 rental cars are stolen each year.
In bankruptcy court, the bogus arrest requests against Hertz were organized into buckets — or groups, depending on when they were filed. One group has been allowed to pursue its claims in state court and recently filed a multiparty lawsuit in Delaware.
More customers have come forward after hearing or reading about the ongoing legal battle in the news.
In addition to its namesake brand, Hertz operates Dollar and Thrifty car rental services. The false arrest allegations implicate all three of the company’s brands.