According to reports, a major car rental company is settling a number of claims by customers who were falsely reported by the company as having stolen its vehicles, with some innocent renters arrested and jailed for weeks or longer over the false theft claims. According to the report, the company released a statment that it was settling 364 claims, which it said amounted to 95% of outstanding claims against it over the false theft reports. Based on these statistics, it appears that the company is involved in, our has been involved in before the settlement, almost 400 of these cases. The reports state that dozens of customers had shared stories on social media and television of being arrested, “swatted” or stopped at border crossings after the company incorrectly reported them to the authorities for stealing vehicles from its fleet of avaialable rental cars. In some of the most aggresious cases, it appears that the customer had paid for and properly returned the car that they rented weeks or months prior — or had never rented a car at all. While the settlement is noteworthy, it is not clear what caused this high number of falsely reported claims and in these types of cases, the facts are crucial. The settled cases do, however, highlight the liability that a company undertakes when it accuses someone of theft without maintinaing adequate safeguards in place and properly investigating the situation to make sure that the accusations are not false.
In Georgia, a company has a duty to properly investigate a case and to not negligently accuse someone of a theft. Many times, the allegations are made without any justification and result in an arrest of an innocent person, lengthy jail stays and other damages. False arrest, malicious prosecution and false imprisonment often occur when security for a store or other retail establishment improperly detains an individual, when they cause a person to be arrested without probable cause or they encourage prosecution of a person when the negligenctly (or sometimes with ill intent) when no probable cause exists absent false information that is given to the authorities. Unfortunately, we find that these cases often involve a security guard who has poor training, or who has a false sense of power, and decides to pursue an innocent individual. When this occurs, the person who was improperly detained, arrested or prosecuted has a claim for monetary damages against the store or retail establishment. These incidents can cause a victim emotional as well as physical trauma and many times, can lead to long, unjustited stays in jail.
For over 25 years, Attorney Robert J. Fleming has been handling premises negligence, medical malpractice and other personal injury lawsuits for individuals and families who have been injured or died as a result of the negligence in the Atlanta, Georgia area. He is a partner in the law firm of Katz Wright & Fleming, LLC and regularly handles cases in Atlanta as well as Alpharetta, Brookhaven, Chamblee, College Park, Duluth, Decatur, Doraville, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Riverdale, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, Smyrna, Peachtree City, and other cities in Georgia. He is committed to making a difference in his clients’ lives. If you or family member have been seriously injured or died as a result of premises negligence and would like quality legal representation or if you would just like to consult about a potential case, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online.