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Car stolen from Meineke repair shop, who is responsible?

Contact Denver7 Getting Results: "We are more than willing to work with the customer"
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Posted at 5:12 PM, Nov 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-14 20:17:17-05

THORNTON, Colo. — You take your car to the shop to get it repaired and trust it's safe, so what happens if it just disappears? That happened to a Thornton man who thought Meineke would take responsibility, but instead, they denied liability.

Brian Olewnik thought he had bad luck when his 2020 Hyundai Tucson was stolen this summer — the first time.

"Sometimes, it's the way it goes, you know," said Olewnik. "I found out then about the TikTok challenges and how easy it is to steal Kias and Hyundais."

When police eventually recovered his damaged ride, he took it to the Meineke Car Care Center near his Thornton home, and he said his luck went from bad to worse.

Two weeks after he dropped off his car, he received a voicemail from a Meineke mechanic saying: "We were about to start working on your car, and somebody stole it again."

Olewnik's insurance totaled his car and paid him the fair market value, minus two, $1,000 deductibles for each theft claim.

"One-thousand dollars means a lot to me," said Olewnik. "That could be a home repair, that could be part of a mortgage payment. I think Meineke should take responsibility and pay the deductible."

But in an email, a Meineke representative states that the company is not liable for the stolen car, recommending Olewnik request their insurance companies subrogate the claim to determine who is responsible. He has been waiting for nearly five months for that to take place.

"What I think is happening is the shop and their insurance is delaying and hoping I kind of forget about it and hoping I kind of just let that $1,000 go," said Olewnik.

Carole Walker with the Rocky Mountain Insurance Association said that reports of cars stolen in shops are spiking, and it is possible that auto shops can be held liable.

"If there's proof that they were negligent and contributed to the theft of your vehicle, they can be responsible," said Walker. "So it's not a cut-and-dried case just saying, 'We're not responsible as the car shop for your vehicle being stolen when it's in our care and custody.' They have a responsibility to protect your car and they can be held liable. They can be held negligent and their own insurance company could be part of your settlement very likely."

We reached out to Meineke, and while corporate leaders would not speak on camera, they released a statement saying, "We are more than willing to work with the customer."

After five months of fighting, Olewnik's luck may finally be changing.

"It's not the amount of money, it's more so the principle," he said. "It's not fair they get to keep it in perpetuity."

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