Woman Sues Avis for Mistaken Stolen Vehicle Report That Ended With Her In Handcuffs

Chris Teague
by Chris Teague

Most car rentals are uneventful, save for the stray gas or cleaning charge. Even so, we’ve heard a few disturbing stories of falsely reported rental car thefts in recent years, in which rental companies can wreak havoc on their customers’ lives without much stopping them. One California woman is suing Avis for such an incident, which ended with her handcuffed at gunpoint.

The Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department stopped Ramona Gutierrez on March 22 after Avis mistakenly reported her rental car stolen. She rented the car to drive for Uber while her vehicle was in the repair shop and said it was cleared by the rideshare company before leaving the Avis lot. Shortly after leaving, she was pulled over on the 210 Freeway. Six sheriff’s vehicles arrived, and Gutierrez’s drive ended with her on the ground, in handcuffs, held at gunpoint.

The incident left Gutierrez in tears, and she said officers would not tell her what was going on until much later when she learned that Avis had started the whole thing. She said she hasn’t been able to go back to driving for weeks and noted that it’s hard for her to drive. 

This Avis incident is stressful, but it’s far from isolated. Hertz has been in hot water multiple times for its falsely-reported vehicle thefts, and late last year, the company agreed to settle hundreds of individual false theft claims to the tune of $168 million.

[Image: Ron Adar via Shutterstock]

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Chris Teague
Chris Teague

Chris grew up in, under, and around cars, but took the long way around to becoming an automotive writer. After a career in technology consulting and a trip through business school, Chris began writing about the automotive industry as a way to reconnect with his passion and get behind the wheel of a new car every week. He focuses on taking complex industry stories and making them digestible by any reader. Just don’t expect him to stay away from high-mileage Porsches.

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9 of 27 comments
  • DenverMike DenverMike on Apr 13, 2023

    What idiots are taking simple overdue rentals as “stolen”? Most police agencies won’t, or they’re competing with repo men. The difference is whether the keys were willingly and or happily handed over. It makes no difference if the car was rented or has a lien/loan.

  • Wjtinfwb Wjtinfwb on Apr 13, 2023

    Fishy story... What does UBER approving the rental have to do with Gutierrez agreement with AVIS. Most rental agreements expressly prohibit using a rental car for hire, it's highly unlikely Avis would have rented directly to UBER with Gutierrez listed as the operator. I'm guessing the car was rented as a retail transaction by Gutierrez, who then called UBER to announce she was back in business with an Avis car. Perhaps UBER than called Avis, who determined this was a violation of the rental contract, and reported the car stolen as it was obtained under fraudulent means. I travel, a lot. I've kept rental cars days past their return date and have always received either a call or an e-mail from the rental company. But essentially, as long as the credit card is still good and accepting charges, the rental company wants you to stay in the car as that's their revenue stream.

    • Jef65715160 Jef65715160 on Apr 14, 2023

      That's not what's happening in these cases. Avis and Hertz are screwing up the previous renters' returns. It's a problem with their inventory management systems.

      They then call the police for "missing" cars which are actually on their lots. And the next renter gets arrested for driving a "stolen" car.

  • Watersketch Watersketch on Apr 13, 2023

    I don't understand why Avis keeps calling the cops on people.

    Do they even try to call the renter on the phone??

    • See 3 previous
    • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Apr 14, 2023

      Having recently visited Juarez I'll pass on Mexico, thanks. I can get fireworks right here without fear of being cut into little pieces. What a dump.

  • Nrd515 Nrd515 on May 11, 2023

    The PD's need to stop the whole guns drawn thing on simple property "crimes" anyway, in most cases. You can watch video after video of the cops pulling over a totally confused person at gunpoint, screaming unintelligible (I was a victim of this in 1976) orders from several people at once, when it turns out to be a non-stolen car, or a wrong person that in one recent one I saw, looked absolutely nothing like the person they thought he was. Them screaming the name of who they thought he was and the guy in the car saying, "Who the hell is Tony?" should have given them a clue. They had him cuffed way longer than needed after they got info and word from someone on the radio that the guy they had pulled over wasn't Tony. If I was their commander, I would have ordered their eyes tested ASAP before being allowed back on the road. And searching the car after they knew he was the wrong guy was not cool at all.