Hertz asks judge to park class action over phone calls made in attempt to recover unreturned rental car

By Scott Holland | Dec 21, 2017

Hertz Rent-A-Car is asking a federal judge to put the brakes on a class action lawsuit sparked by the company's alleged unsolicited phone calls to a man over an unreturned vehicle, after the car rental company said evidence indicates the man’s mother had supplied them with the man’s number when she rented a car, but then refused to respond to Hertz’s repeated attempts to ask for the car to be returned.

Rico Tillman had filed the complaint in federal court in Chicago, saying The Hertz Corporation made unsolicited marketing calls to wireless telephone numbers, allegedly in violation of the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Hertz, however, said it called Tillman because it was trying to recover a car his mother, Judy Sanders, rented and failed to return. Hertz said Sanders gave two phone numbers on her rental contract. She owned both numbers, but one was for Tillman’s phone.

Sanders ultimately returned the car in late February 2016 after Hertz says it threatened to report the car stolen. Tillman then filed his suit in April that year as a class action, saying there were other wireless phone subscribers in similar situations.

In November 2017, Hertz asked the court for summary judgment in the case. It said discovery confirmed the connection between Sanders and the phone numbers, as well as her consent to the company’s privacy policy that gave it permission to call the numbers she provided for the purpose of getting its car returned.

“Even assuming, solely for purposes of this motion, that Mr. Tillman sought to revoke that consent, he could not effectively do so,” the motion stated. “And the calls at issue fall within the TCPA’s exception for calls made for emergency purposes.”

According to the motion, Sanders rented a car from Hertz on Jan. 5, 2016, at its location in suburban South Holland. She listed two phone numbers, both associated with her T-Mobile account.

The car was due Jan. 15, but Sanders extended the rental period three times until the due date was Feb. 3, 2016. After that time, she neither returned the car nor contacted Hertz for another extension. When two more weeks passed, Hertz called one of the provided numbers. When it did so again the next day, Tillman answered and said he could get a message to his mother.

“The notes in Hertz’s system regarding the Feb. 17 conversation with Mr. Tillman give no indication that he informed Hertz that the … number did not belong to Ms. Sanders, or that he told Hertz to stop calling that number,” Hertz noted, saying phone records show he called his mother within two minutes of speaking to a Hertz representative.

Hertz also said it left a voicemail at the other number and sent a text message conveying the same information. It said Sanders checked her voice mail that day, but didn’t return its call. Hertz called both numbers on Feb. 19, and on the first line, spoke again to Tillman and told him it would repossess the car. Again, he said he would speak with his mother and did not mention the number was his or tell Hertz to stop calling, Hertz said.

Sanders ultimately returned the car on Feb. 25.

Since Sanders listed both numbers as emergency contacts, only she would have power to revoke the consent for Hertz to call those numbers in case of emergency, negating Tillman’s standing to bring the complaint.

Representing Hertz in the matter is Jenner & Block LLP, Chicago.

Tillman is represented in the action by attorneys with the Burke Law Offices LLC, and the firm of SmithMarco P.C., both of Chicago.

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Organizations in this Story

Jenner & Block LLP SmithMarco PC U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

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