If you're attached to your car, you probably have the same feeling as most of us do when we leave our keys to someone else outside our circle – think dealer, parking attendant etc. And all for good reason as there's an abundance of stories about company employees taking cars for joyrides, sometimes with disastrous results.
You can add John Hooper to the list of owners who came to experience this first hand when he left his 2012 Camaro ZL1 with around 10,000 miles to Georgetown, Delaware, dealer "1st State Chevrolet" (otherwise known as 'First State Chevrolet') in the middle of December 2013. On Monday, December 16, he received a dreaded phone call from the dealer informing him that one of the company's employees had crashed the car after taking it for a joyride on Sunday.
While it's pretty obvious that Hooper should be reinstated, he has run into problems with the dealer and the insurance companies and has yet to replace his ride, three weeks after the accident.
The Chevrolet dealer posted this on their website:
"Recently 1st State Chevrolet had an employee enter the dealership on Sunday December 15th and take a customer’s Camaro without authorization and subsequently totaled the customer’s car in an accident. Our business is closed on Sundays and was locked as is usual procedure. The employee acted on his own in this unfortunate event. This is an awful situation for both the customer and the dealership to deal with. We have been in contact with the customer and apologized for this situation at length. Both parties’ insurance companies are working to handle this claim in a satisfactory manner. Hopefully this situation will be settled in the very near future.
-Robert L. Hansen
President 1st State Chevrolet"
The issue at hand is that Hooper and 1st State Chevrolet can't come to an agreement for the replacement. You'd think that the dealer would want to keep the client happy and compensate him for his loss and time as well, while also avoiding any negative publicity by offering a new ride, but they want to give him a used model of equal worth, and that's where they disagree.
As reported by the CapeGazette that followed the story, the dealership offered Hooper two used Camaro ZL1s, but he declined both on the ground that they were not comparable to what he lost.
The first one was said to have had two previous owners, while Hooper's wife Debbie found out that the car also been in an accident, while the second one was the same year model but had 3,000 miles more.
While the issue drags on, Debbie Hooper said that the couple will continue to make payments on the car. They also met up with an attorney who told them that they are not "entitled to pain and suffering, lawyer or court costs".
“It's going to end up costing us more money if we go forward with the attorney,” she said.
For the time being, they're driving a loaner car from 1st State Chevrolet with a cracked windshield since the ZL1 went into the shop for the paint problem.
“We're losing sleep over this, time off from work, and this still isn't resolved,” John Hooper said. “This is so ethically and morally wrong it isn't funny.”
As for the employee responsible for this whole mess, Delaware State Police charged Eric Peterson, 42, of Georgetown with careless driving and failure to have insurance identification in possession. The man was also fired from the dealership. Police told Debbie Hooper that she could not file theft or any other criminal charges against Peterson as the car was in the dealer's possession when the crash occurred.
Take a look at two postings that John Hooper made on the Camaro5 forums below, and tell us what you think should happen in the comments.
John Hooper's original posting on Camaro5 forums in December:
"On Sunday, December 15, 2013, my prized 2012 Camaro ZL1 took its last breath at 4:47 pm. The car was at the dealer in Georgetown, DE for paint issues (under warranty). It had been locked in the service bay over the weekend. On Sunday afternoon, an employee of the dealership (service writer) entered the locked building, removed the keys to my car from the service department, and went on a joyride. The car was totaled when he lost control and sheared off a telephone pole.
The dealership informed my wife and I on Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. of our loss. Yes, they waited over 16 hours to tell us about our car. I am sure they discussed the incident with their attorneys prior to calling us.
It is now Friday, the car has been officially totaled by the insurance company, and the dealership is telling us it is not their problem. They even refuse to provide my wife and I (and our insurance company) with their insurance information.
I traded in my 2011 SS2 Camaro and sold my 1969 Camaro SS in pristine condition to buy the ZL1. I will never be able to afford another new ZL1, and basically I don't think I should have to be put in the position to have to buy a new one. We trusted the dealership to use vigilance while our car was in their possession. We can't even have charges pressed against their employee for theft because the car was not in OUR possession when stolen.
Something about this whole thing just doesn't seem right. What would you do if this was your baby?"
A second post from John Hooper on Camaro5 forums:
"1. When cop arrived, only driver was in the car. Driver/thief/service writer swore to the cop that he was my best friend and I had let him take the car. Cop never questioned this statement, nor did he call to find out if it was true. Note, this is the same cop who shot an unarmed man in his 83 year-old mother's living room 8 times, including the last shot to the groin. All true. Happened August 1, 2013. Read the Cape Gazette, Delaware news.
2. Dealer became involved after the accident when the driver/thief/service writer called his service manager. Service manager was on a plane on the way to Atlanta for a conference. Service manager called dealer owner. Dealer owner did not contact us until the following morning--after he called his attorney, etc.
3. The state police told us on Monday morning that WE could not press charges--only the dealer could--because the car was not in our possession at the time of the theft. The dealer could press charges for "unauthorized use" not theft. To my knowledge, no charges have been pressed.
4. The cop involved was off duty from Sunday night until 6pm on Wednesday. I met with him then, and he told me what happened regarding the accident. He indicated he had not completed his investigation and it would not be completed until he was back on duty, which would be on Friday. Wow, cops must have banker's hours.
5. Our insurance company (GEICO) is treating this as a theft. However, the owner of the dealership refuses to give his insurance information to GEICO. GEICO has informed us that they will attempt to get damages from the dealer but this will all take time.
6. We live in a small town, and we have only lived there 9 years. To most folks born there, we are still outsiders. The good-old-boy network is apparently in place. The cops all stick together, and considering the dealership is practically next door to the state trooper barracks, I guess they are all sticking together. We plan to file a complaint against the trooper who has so obviously mishandled this situation, but I don't know how far it will get. Especially since his shooting an unarmed man 8 times didn't get very far.
Anything is possible, and unfortunately it is true in this situation.