Many rental car companies have bad reputations for shafting customers with hidden fees and other dodgy behavior. Avis can top that, however, as it recently had one customer falsely arrested, according to KTLA5. Now, it's on the receiving end of a lawsuit over the matter.
Ramona Gutierrez was arrested by police on March 22 for driving a stolen vehicle. She had legitimately rented the vehicle from Avis while her own vehicle was being repaired. For unknown reasons, the rental company allegedly reported the car as stolen before or during her legal possession of it. In traumatic scenes, the single mother was held at gunpoint by police, later suffering injuries to her wrists after being handcuffed during the arrest.
Gutierrez had rented the vehicle so she could drive for Uber, having worked for the ride-sharing app for six years. She cleared the use of the rented Nissan Altima with Uber, picking it up from an Avis lot in Torrance without issue. Hours later, she was pulled over by six squad cars from the Sheriff's Department on the 210 Freeway.
According to Gutierrez's attorney, Hugo Ivan Salazar, police pulled guns on the woman during the arrest. Not knowing why she was pulled over, Gutierrez cried during the confusing ordeal, fearing she would be shot by police. “Even though she explained that the car was legally rented, sheriff deputies cuffed and put her in the squad car," Salazar explained in a press release. "This experience has left her shaken and traumatized, and she is now seeking compensation for her injuries and emotional distress.”
Gutierrez would later learn that Avis had reported her rental car as stolen. She has not yet received any apology from Avis regarding the matter. Speaking to KTLA5, Gutierrez says she has found it impossible to work due to the trauma of the arrest. “It’s been hard for me to drive,” she said.
According to reports by KTLA5, Avis had previously reported the Nissan Altima as stolen. The car then reportedly re-entered circulation at the Avis lot where it was rented by Gutierrez. The Uber driver was later released by police after they clarified the car was not stolen from the rental company.
The legal team representing Gutierrez has called for Avis to take immediate action regarding its reporting practices. "They must be held accountable when their negligence results in harm," stated the press release. The Drive has reached out to Avis for comment on the matter and will update this article accordingly.
Renting a car in the U.S. is becoming an increasingly dangerous proposition. Rental giant Hertz has become particularly well-known for getting customers arrested over erroneous stolen vehicle reports. In one harrowing case, a man was arrested after the car he rented had already been returned. He described his arrest as "the most harrowing experience of my life" after spending multiple days in jail. The company has fought hundreds of aggrieved customers in court who have allegedly suffered false arrests and imprisonment.
This story is, sadly, a cautionary tale. It seems there is little customers can do beyond keeping their paperwork in order and hoping they don't fall victim to a dangerous false report. Until rental companies clean up their act, the safest decision may be to avoid renting a car at all.
Got a tip? Let the author know: email@example.com