Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Help Me Howard: Stolen Tag
A vacation for some Indiana cops in south Florida was ruined when they get detained by miami police over stolen plates on their rental van. That has them saying Help Me Howard. Here's seven's Patrick Fraser.
WSVN--Find a big sporting event, and odds are John Campbell will be there...
John Campbell: "The last five years, my brothers and I, we've gone to the superbowls."
But this year the super bowl was in Detroit. Windy, snowy Detroit...
John Campbell: "We didn't want to go to a cold weather state. So we decided to come down to Miami and hang out on South Beach for the week."
John and his brothers rented a house in Miami and a van to get around in. Then started having fun, beginning with a run down US 1...
John Campbell: "Went down to Key West on Monday. Had a great time down there. Had a blast."
After their return from the southernmost point, they enjoyed the rest of south Florida. But, at the end of the trip, the fun went out of the Sunshine State...
John Campbell: "One of my brothers decided to go out and smoke a cigarette, And I guess they see him out in the van at 3 O'clock in the morning and they run the plate."
And when the police ran the rental vans plate, it came back stolen. Bad news for John's brother...
John Campbell: "They get my brother out of the back of the van, cuff him up and put him in the back of a squad car."
Did we mention that John is also an Indiana state trooper, and since the van was in his name, the officers came in to talk to him.
John Campbell: "I open my eyes up and I see there's five police officers."
The police hauled him outside. Not the way troopers are used to being treated...
John Campbell: "We've been embarrassed. I walked outside to find the registration, there's five squad cars out there in the street. They've got the street blocked off."
The officers let John call the rental company to try and straighten it all out.
John Campbell: "I call the rental car company and I get a night time attendant. Doesn't have a clue."
When the rental clerk couldn't explain the stolen tag the police took it off the van. Which meant John and his friends couldn't drive the van. Of course, course that didn't phase the rental clerk.
John Campbell: "He gets hold of a manager but he won't let me speak to the manager."
For the next few days John tried to call the owner of the rental company. He e-mailed him. He was wasting his time...
John Campbell: "I left a message on the web for the customer service division. They never called me back."
To add insult to their rudeness, the rental company made John pay for the full price of the van.
So after getting back to Indiana, John made a long-distance call to Help Me Howard to find out if he still had to pay for the van.
Howard Finkelstein: "If the mistake was not the rental agencies then John and his friends would have to pay the full price of the van. However if it turns out the agency made a mistake and used a tag on that they had reported stolen, then that is negligence and John is entitled to damages."
Help Me Howard ran the tag from the van... It did come back to the rental car agency.
They told us it came from another van that had been stolen and was later returned.
They don't know why it was taken off that van and put on John's van.
To compensate John for his embarrassment and trouble they did agree to refund $600... The entire cost of the rental van.
Howard says if John wants more money, he might have to go to court.
Howard Finkelstein: "If something happens to ruin your vacation, whether its bed bugs in a hotel room, or renting a van with a tag that had been reported stolen, the business is responsible for the damage they do to your vacation. But, calculating the damages could take a judge. And, since it was near the end of their vacation, not having to pay for the van seems like a fair resolution for these guys."
John is going to talk to his buddies to decide if they want to go to court.
He says they're still upset over being given that van with that tag.
John Campbell: "When you're on vacation, at 3 o'clock in t he morning asleep and you're awakened by five police officers .. saying that the vehicle you have has stolen plates. That's shakes you up."
Patrick Fraser: "When howard talks about John or anyone being entitled to damages he doesn't mean you will get rich. You will normally only get money to reimburse you for what you lost. And actually, John was lucky in one way: people are arrested for having a stolen tag. But since John is a police officer he knew how to quickly prove he had not done anything wrong."
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