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Customer sues car dealership, alleges false imprisonment

A Pennsylvania woman has alleged that she and her 3-year-old grandson were held against their will at a Middle River car dealership and that she was told to sign a nondisclosure agreement regarding a complaint she threatened to file with Maryland consumer protection authorities about being overcharged for a pickup truck.

In her lawsuit filed this month, Teresa Schlehuber said she and the boy were freed when police responded to her 911 call saying they were being held at Al Packer’s White Marsh Ford. Schlehuber said through counsel that she never signed the agreement under which the dealership offered her $1,500 not to submit or discuss the complaint she intended to file with the Motor Vehicle Administration or denounce the company.

Schlehuber is seeking more than $75,000 in compensation for her and the toddler’s alleged false imprisonment. The lawsuit was filed this month in Baltimore County Circuit Court by attorney Daniel W. Whitney Jr., of Whitney LLP in Towson.

The dealership issued a statement Thursday through its attorney, Michael N. Russo Jr., that “it is Al Packer’s policy to not comment on on-going litigation.” Russo is with Council, Baradel, Kosmerl & Nolan PA in Annapolis.

According to the lawsuit, Schlehuber was ready last December to buy a used 2014 Ford Raptor with over 130,000 miles for about $27,800. Before the deal was done, the salesman told her the service department had to perform $1,500 worth of work on the vehicle, including an oil change, brake work and the installation of new external lights, the lawsuit stated.

Schlehuber agreed to the additional charge, which at the time she did not know violated state law prohibiting vehicle sales above the advertised price.

Schlehuber, after picking up the vehicle, soon realized the oil had not been changed and the brake work had not been completed. She told the dealership on Jan. 28 that she would file a complaint with the MVA about what she called the company’s dishonest and deceptive practices.

A company manager responded by handing her the nondisclosure agreement under which the dealership would pay her $1,500 in return for her pledge not to “reveal to the general media, or to any other person” the MVA-related complaint or details of the agreement, according to the lawsuit. Schlehuber would also agree not to “demonstrate or spread negative comments” about the dealership.

Schlehuber refused to sign the agreement, telling the manager she would “tell everyone she knows what Al Packer did to her, and to recommend they never buy a car from Al Packer,” the lawsuit stated. Before leaving, Schlehuber added that she still intended to file the complaint with MVA.

According to the lawsuit, Schlehuber was lured back to the dealership on Feb. 25 when told she had to pick up a second temporary registration tag for the vehicle because the first one was expiring.

Upon arriving at the dealership with her grandson, Schlehuber said she was told to go to the back office for the tag, which she reluctantly did. Once in the office, a manager told her that she would not get the tag until she signed the release, the lawsuit stated.

Schlehuber refused and left the building only to find her vehicle blocked by a pickup truck belonging to the dealership, she said. Schlehuber got into her vehicle with her grandson and called 911, the lawsuit stated.

When police arrived, a dealership employee moved the vehicle, allowing Schlehuber and the boy to leave, according to the lawsuit filed April 6.

The case is Teresa Schlehuber v. Al Packer’s White Marsh Ford LLC, No. C-03-CV-20-001536.

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