Most ridiculous lawsuits USA: Half-tank of gas spurs $5M suit

Woman says Ally was wrong to keep fuel in her repossessed car

Detroit— A White Lake woman waged a new fight against high gas prices Friday.

Victoria Jean Church-Dellinger filed a $5 million class-action suit in federal court against Ally Financial Inc. for keeping the half a tank’s worth of gas in her 2008 Pontiac G6 when it was repossessed.

“It’s the same as if you left your jacket in there and they didn’t return it to you,” Brian Parker, her Bingham Farms attorney, said in an interview. “You can’t take someone’s coat or fuzzy dice, and you have to return the gas.”

Church-Dellinger, 43, wants more than $5 million, which represents three times the fair market value of all gasoline taken from Michigan residents by the Detroit-based automotive financial services company over the last six years, according to the suit. She also wants the Detroit-based auto lender, which is majority-owned by the U.S. government, to return all gasoline seized during that time or pay fair market value.

And she wants Ally in the future to give owners whose vehicles are repossessed credit for gasoline left in the tank.

There was no comment from an Ally spokeswoman.

The lawsuit comes amid concerns gasoline could soon top $4 a gallon. Gas prices are averaging $3.65 a gallon in the state, up 34 cents from a year earlier, according to AAA Michigan.

Parker said he believes this is the first such lawsuit to be filed. He insists he is serious, though he acknowledges people may snicker at the legal attempt.

“Everybody I’ve told this to says: ‘That’s stup … wait a minute, that’s genius,’” Parker said.

Gasoline is considered personal property. “If it’s in the ground and not extracted, it’s a mineral,” he said. “If it’s extracted, it’s personal property.”

Parker said he plans similar lawsuits against other banks. “They’re all doing this,” he said.

His client, a mother of four, is an office manager for a construction company. She leased the Pontiac G6 for $249.95 a month in July 2008. But last year, she allegedly defaulted. Ally repossessed the car in October 2011.

In November, she owed more than $5,800. Ally charged her for excess mileage, excess wear and late charges, according to a statement included with the lawsuit. She was not credited for the approximately half-tank of gas left in the car, Parker said.

© by Robert Snell

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