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Car theft victims want Cleveland to fight harder for overall damage reimbursements

Posted at 5:23 PM, Mar 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-13 18:25:39-04

CLEVELAND — Car theft victims want the City of Cleveland to do more than just get money from manufacturers to repay the police department for exhausted resources. Car owners are experiencing financial hardships as body shops remain caught in the middle.

Kia theft victim, Jane Rohfeld, is a Cleveland Metro School District teacher and had her car stolen at work nearly three weeks ago. Her car has been recovered, but the situation continues to drain her wallet.

“I'm still having to pay payments on this car and it's probably not going to be fixed until June or July,” said Jane Rohfeld.

Another Kia owner, Amanda Gorden, even invested in security cameras around her house to avoid becoming the next victim, since selling her car right now is near impossible.

“I’ve had to get security at my house from two different areas angles just so I know if someone is in my yard or driveway I can just be aware even at night,” said Gorden.

Last week, the City of Cleveland filed a federal lawsuit against the Kia and Hyundai automakers, citing failure to install industry-standard anti-theft locks. The city ordered the two automakers to fix affected vehicles and repay damages related to overtime paid to patrol officers and other staff members at the police impound lot. Rohfeld believes that’s a step in the right direction, but not enough for the actual victims.

“I would like the minimum of the $4,000 down that I put on this car, along with all of the expenses I have incurred, and will continue to incur until this situation gets settled,” Rohfeld said.

Body shops even feel victimized, not being able to get needed parts from the manufacturers.

“Kia needs to step up their plate,” said Bill Weppler, Owner of BW Automotive. “They just haven't really done anything that needs to be done to help the people that have this problem.”

It makes business nearly impossible.

“It definitely impacts it because my job is to satisfy the customer and if I can’t satisfy the customer, but the problem is no one can,” Weppler added.

News 5 requested an interview with the City of Cleveland’s Director of Law, Mark Griffin, to discuss victims' possible financial compensation beyond fixing affected vehicles, but we are still waiting for a response. Instead, Ward 13 Councilman, Kris Harsh, sent us a statement saying in part quote, “Cleveland is trying to get compensation and there is a firm acting on vehicle owner's behalf, specifically.”

Those firms are Seattle-based law firm Keller Rohrback LLP and Chicago-based law firm Fegan Scott.

Rohfeld remains skeptical.

“I did reach out to the one they recommended, I left a message,” Rohfeld said. “I have not received a call back yet from them. I don't have the funds to go and hire an attorney because I'm trying to pay for all of the expenses that's being incurred from this stolen vehicle.”

Owners are tired of being a moving target and fear it's becoming a matter of life or death.

“Especially if you have kids in the car and you’re at a light and you don’t know crazy things have happened and people just really don’t care,” Gorden said.

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