Jury sticks repo company for $1.6 million Slippery method of seizing car led to owner’s injury, jurors conclude
When repo men with Gulf Coast Recovery Services & Storage sneaked into Kenneth Thrash’s carport in the dead of night to repossess his 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Sierra, they employed a slick approach to extract the vehicle; slathering the floor with dishwashing liquid to slide the car out quickly and quietly.
Too slick, in fact.
A Mobile County Circuit Court jury walloped the company Wednesday afternoon with a $1.6 million verdict, blaming Gulf Coast Recovery for a serious injury Thrash incurred when he ran into his carport to look for his car, slid on the slimy floor and landed on his lower back.
The jury awarded $1.5 million in compensatory damages to Thrash, and $100,000 to his wife, Kathryn Thrash, said Mobile Lawyer Desmond Tobias, who tried the case with his partner, Mike Windom.
Thrash was working at a convenience store on the evening of April 24, 1997, when his wife called him around midnight to report that their car was gone and feared stolen, Tobias said.
“It was an open carport, and the front end of the car was against the wall,” said Tobias. “To get the car out they had to lift it up from the rear. Because it’s a front-wheel drive vehicle, the front wheels were locked, so they lubricated it to get it out of there.
“They put this dishwashing liquid all over the place, right where the family would go to get in the back door,” Tobias said. “His wife called him and said, ‘Somebody just stole our car.’ He comes racing home, he was kind of running and he fell and suffered a pretty severe back injury and he’s had surgery several times because of it.”
Thrash, who at the time lived in a rental home off Moffett Road, returned to work that night, but went to the emergency room the following day, Tobias said.
“They sent him home and he essentially lived with it for about six months because he had no health insurance,” Tobias said. During the trial, the defense contended that Thrash had a pre-existing back condition and denied responsibility for the incident, Tobias said.
Thrash also sued Credit Acceptance Corp., which held the note to his car. That company had contracted with Gulf Coast Recovery Services to repossess the car after Thrash fell behind on his payments. Mobile County Circuit Judge Edward McDermott, who presided over the trial, dismissed Credit Acceptance as a defendant on the eve of the trial.
Gulf Coast Recovery Services is no longer in business, but the company was insured, Tobias said.
An attorney for the defendant declined to comment on the case or the jury’s verdict.
By Eddie Curran, Press-Register