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Student Stranded After Car Stolen From Dealership Lot

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WAXAHACHIE (CBSDFW.COM) – A college student from Midlothian hit a major road bump on her way back to school this week.

Texas A&M student Chandler Smith took her 2005 Ford Focus to Waxahachie Ford last week for repairs.  But with classes starting Monday in College Station, she’s going to have to figure out another way to get down there.

Smith is borrowing her dad’s car while she searches for a way to replace the one she just bought.  She spent all summer saving up for it.  “I was really happy I would have a way to get to school and not just ride the bus everywhere,” the 20-year-old said.

On Tuesday her father, Chris Smith, received a phone call from the dealership.  “They said ‘We can’t find your car, we’ll call you back.'”

It turned out the car was stolen while parked on the lot.  “I just felt really sick,” says Chandler.

The Smiths thought the dealership would assume liability for the insurance claim, deductible and at least a loaner car. But, the family says the dealership told them it is not responsible, even though employees admitted to leaving the keys either in or on the vehicle on the night it was stolen.

“They kind of just said, ‘too bad’ and didn’t even really apologize,” says Chandler.

Waxahachie Ford owner Steve Landers sees the situation differently.  “If you pull into a Walmart and somebody steals your car, or you pull into Channel 11 and someone steals it, you call your insurance company.”

Landers says there are liability notices posted at the dealership, and customers sign waivers when they leave their vehicles.  He says his liability is no different than that of any other business.  “Walmart wouldn’t loan you a car, and neither would Channel 11.”

Consumer protection attorney Steve Sanfelippo says in his opinion, the dealership is responsible.  “Once the vehicle has been delivered to the dealer and it’s in the dealers possession, the dealer has the duty to protect it.”

But that’s little comfort to Chandler Smith, who will find it hard to make trips home to her family this fall.  “I’ll have to borrow my dad’s car to get to school, or maybe I’ll have to be dropped off in College Station and rely on friends for rides.”

The dealership says it offered a loaner car to the Smith family, but the Smiths claim that didn’t happen until CBS 11 approached the dealership with questions.

The Smiths have contacted their insurance about the loss, but haven’t heard what action the company might take.  On Friday night they heard from the dealership’s insurance company, who has opened a claim.

The Smiths say they hope that’s the first step in getting the situation resolved.

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