Adolfo Pesquera, Daily Business Review
Charles Rambo the repo man, true to the mythic Vietnam anti-hero John Rambo, acted with a reckless abandon that cost his employer a $359,253 verdict.
In a trial that concluded this week in Fort Myers, the jury found that Dan D. Smith, a real Vietnam War Marine Corps veteran, was snagged on his car’s side mirror by his military bracelet when he was trying to stop Rambo.
The repo man for Coast to Coast Recovery of South Florida Inc. had just gunned the engine of his tow truck. Forced to go along for a harrying ride, Smith was dragged about 150 feet, until the mirror broke and he was thrown into the street.
A retired federal narcotics agent, Smith suffered a fractured right hip.
According to plaintiff attorney C. David Durkee of Roberts &; Durkee in Coral Gables the injury was entirely avoidable. Repossession agents cannot repossess a car once they breach the peace.
Before Rambo left with Smith’s car, he knocked on the front door at 3:45 a.m. on Oct. 5, 2011. Smith woke up, answered the door knock and got into a heated discussion about whether he was up to date on his payments.
Smith insisted on documented proof that Coast to Coast had authority to take the car and Rambo wouldn’t provide it. Rambo offered to give Smith a business card and returned to the tow truck on that pretext.
Instead of giving Smith a card, Rambo’s foot stomped on the gas pedal.
“In this case, knocking on this fellow’s home at 3:45 in the morning—that, in and of itself, is a breach of the peace,” Durkee said.
Mark Lacek, a former Florida Association of Licensed Recovery Agents, testified that Rambo breached his standard of care when he knocked on the door at that hour. Rambo should have just hooked the car up and left without making contact, he said.
Smith underwent two hip surgeries, the second one being to instal a replacement hip. Medical testimony also revealed he re-aggravated neck and back injuries original sustained in Vietnam.
Durkee’s co-counsel was Vincent J. Tubiana of Hutchison & Tubiana in Key Largo.
Lee Circuit Judge Joseph Fuller presided. Scott A. Shelton of Cole Scott & Kissane in Orlando represented the repo company.
by Michael Braun