In January 2019, Andrus Anderson LLP filed a lawsuit against The Hertz Corporation, and its debt-collection agency, Viking Client Services, LLC on behalf of customers who were wrongly accused of damaging their rental cars. The lawsuit challenges Hertz’s improper billing and collection practices.
In response, Hertz attempted to throw their customers out of court, arguing that their legal claims could only be pursued in private arbitration. To make that argument, Hertz pointed to a clause in the rental agreement it imposes on all of its rental customers, including those renting from its Dollar and Thrifty rental brands. According to Hertz, none of the legal claims brought by any of its rental car customers should ever be allowed to proceed in court. Instead, Hertz insisted that the legal claims must be decided by a private arbitrator, in secret.
We weren’t going to give up without a fight, though. We explained to the judge that the clause in Hertz’s contract that it was hoping to use to throw us out of court explicitly excludes claims for property damage, personal injury, and death–meaning those types of claims should be litigated in court. We argued that the claims we were making in the lawsuit arose out of property damage claims, so we should stay in court. Nevertheless, the judge required that an arbitrator decide whether or not the plaintiff’s claims belonged in arbitration.
After months of submitting briefs and making oral arguments, the arbitrator ultimately agreed with Andrus Anderson and the plaintiff: the claims we bring “seek resolution of property damage claims” and so they can be pursued in court (rather than arbitration) under the terms of Hertz’s rental agreement. The order can be viewed here.
In the ongoing fight against the restrictive forced arbitration clauses that are inflicted by corporations every day, this is an important win for consumers.