MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) — A north central West Virginia law firm is involved in one of an unusual string of nationwide cases involving contested allegations of stolen rental cars from the Hertz company.
The firm of Shaffer Madia, based in Clarksburg and Morgantown, is representing a Kentucky man named Blake Gober. Gober had rented a car from the Hertz location at the Morgantown Airport in 2019.
Gober said he later returned the car to a location in Washington, DC, but Hertz believed Gober was still in possession of the car and said the company attempted to contact him multiple times via phone, text, email, and certified letter regarding the vehicle.
When Gober was pulled over for a speeding violation in Kentucky, he was arrested on an outstanding stolen vehicle warrant out of Morgantown, which he said he knew nothing about.
According to Gober’s attorneys, the Monongalia County Prosecutor filed a motion to dismiss the case against him last week and the case was dismissed on Monday.
Gober’s case, while unusual, is not unique. In 2022, Hertz announced a settlement of 364 pending claims related to vehicle theft reporting. The company agreed to pay an aggregate amount of approximately $168 million to resolve those disputes.
“As I have said since joining Hertz earlier this year, my intention is to lead a company that puts the customer first. In resolving these claims, we are holding ourselves to that objective,” said Stephen Scherr, CEO of Hertz in a December 2022 news release. “While we will not always be perfect, the professionals at Hertz will continue to work every day to provide best-in-class service to the tens of millions of people we serve each year. Moving forward, it is our intention to reshape the future of our company through electrification, shared mobility and a great digital-first customer experience.”
Gober’s attorney questioned that statement in an interview with 12 News.
“The new CEO at the time, Stephen Scheer, went on TV programs across the country and said essentially, ‘we’ve fixed the problem, we’ve changed our policies to ensure this won’t happen again and we’ll do right by our customers have been affected by this very, very quickly,’” said attorney Wes Prince. “Here we are, 20 months later [and] we saw what happened to Blake. We lived it with him.”
“Whatever they fixed, didn’t get fixed correctly, and so we would just ask him the simple straightforward question of ‘what policies did you change and what’re you going to change now,’” said Prince.
12 News contacted Hertz’s media relations department for a comment on the Gober case and received the following response:
“Almost four years ago, in 2019, Mr. Gober rented a car from Hertz for one day. He kept the car for over three months without payment. Hertz reached out repeatedly to Mr. Gober regarding its car, including by email, texts, phone calls, and certified mail. Mr. Gober ignored all of Hertz’s outreach, save one phone call during which he hung up on a Hertz representative when asked to return the vehicle. Ultimately, Hertz reported its car stolen.”
In its emailed statement to 12 News, Hertz’s spokesperson outlined the following attempts the company made to contact Gober about the rental car before reporting it as stolen.
- On January 16, 2020, Mr. Gober identified himself on the phone to a representative of the repossession company Hertz hired to recover the car and subsequently hung up when told that the car had been reported stolen.
- Hertz called Mr. Gober at least seven times on his various numbers and left voicemails. Hertz emailed Mr. Gober. Hertz texted Mr. Gober. Hertz sent Mr. Gober a certified letter.
- Mr. Gober never responded to any of these outreach efforts and never once claimed he had previously returned the vehicle.
- It was not until after all these contact attempts were made and a third-party private repossession vendor was hired to attempt to recover the vehicle—a total of 53 days since the rental car was due—did Hertz file a theft report with the Morgantown Police Department.
Hertz received Mr. Gober’s phone number and mailing address in the following ways:
- From Mr. Gober himself when he entered his contact information in order to rent the vehicle;
- That same contact information would have then been verified by the Hertz employee on location the day Mr. Gober rented the vehicle; and,
- Once the recovery process for the car was initiated, Mr. Gober’s contact information was re-verified and matched the rental details and Vehicle Control records.
Stay with 12 News as this story continues to develop.