Student Stranded After Car Stolen From Dealership Lot

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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  • Jerome Moore

    Hard to believe that the dealership owner would go on the air and make such an obnoxious statement. His employees admit to leaving the keys in or on the car…when do you turn your keys over to the Wal-Mart employee?

    • iveyphotography


    • David Thomason

      I hope it works out for this young lady. When my Tamco roof tiles fell apart last year after only half of their “no default “guaranteed” life span, they pulled the same cheap stunt, as did my wonderful agent from State Farm. I’m left to replace it at totally my own expense. It means if you don’t have lawyers to deal with these corporations, you get the shaft, time after time. Hopefully, she will get a law degree first, before a vet. degree or anything useful to society, when she finds out that “business” and “cheating” means the same thing to these people representing these companies.

    • Gumby Rules

      Good and valid point, BUT you do if you take your vehicle in for service (oil change, tires, etc.)

      • Bennie

        The owner of the dealership is an idiot. He makes argument that if you pull into wal-mart and your car is stolen they’re not responsible or if you pull into CBS 11 parking lot and your car is stolen, they’re not responsible. Last time I checked, CBS 11 TV doesn’t repair cars nor do they take the keys of the cars of the employees who work there and as for Wal-Mart, you’re not likely to leave your car there overnight but I bet if you left your car with them and it was stolen from their possession, their insurance company would pay up. The dealership took possession of the car and should have returned it back to the owner in the same condition that they took it. If this ends up in court, the dealership will probably come out on the short end of the stick.

    • Christopher Allen

      I was thinkning the same thing!!!!! What an idiot. Yes it’s covered under their gate-keepers insurance policy for the dealership. He is going to loose many customers over his stupid statements. He will also loose this case. All just for a vehicle worth appox $5-6K. Anyone smarter than a 5th grader knows this.

  • John Lambert

    This is typical of a fky by night car dealer. Ford Motor Company should be contacted about the dealership principals actions or lack therof, I am sure they do want bad publicity! I have over 30 years oe expierence in car dealerships and the ones I worked for would never have made the statements tha Landers made on TV, the automobile business ahd been invaded by these kind of operators, so this kind of treatment of acustomer is not surprising.

    • Gumby Rules

      I doubt Waxahachie Ford is a “fky by night car dealer”.

  • Rowlins

    Probably an inside job.

    • Just Deb

      That was kind of what I thought. I wonder how many other cars have disappeared from their lot.

  • Jennifer

    Well said, Mr. Lambert. I am Chandler’s mother, & we certainly did contact Ford Motor Company to let them know just how their name was being represented here. Thanks for your comment.

    • Charice Shannon

      I would love to know how ford responds. I posted the story on their Facebook page, wonder how long it will take them to remove the post.

    • Gumby Rules


      If you really are her mother, did she also leave her house keys with her car keys attached with the dealer?

      Better change those locks on the doors immediately, the thief now has your name and can easily look-up your address. He now (possibly) has the keys to your house. You may also need to re-key car locks also.

      • Jennifer

        Gumby Rules…we only left car keys, thankfully. Yes, I really am her mom. ; )

  • Lisa

    This is ridiculous!!! I could understand if something was left in the car like a wallet or personal items coming up missing & backing up the not responsible for theft, but it was the ENTIRE car left in THEIR care. This girl had reasonable expectations that her car would be safe & needs to be compensated. It’s not her fault an employee left the keys accessible & most lost I’ve been to have a way to secure their lot so if this is also the case, how did the car make it off the lot unless it was stolen during business hours?

    • MsT

      Has anyone really looked at those signs they have posted in the repair areas of a dealership? If I recall correctly most of those signs state that they are not responsible for anything stolen from the vehicle. It doesn’t seem that it would apply to the vehicle itself. They take the vehicle for repairs they are responsible for that vehicle and all of it. They admitted wrongful doing, they are responsible for giving this young lady a vehicle in place of equal value. And for goodness sake it was a Ford Focus, its not like she was driving a mercedes . FORD SHOULD FINE THIS DEALERSHIP AND PUNISH THEM FOR DRIVING THE FORD NAME DOWN!!!! REPLACE THE CAR, IT WAS YOUR FAULT AND YOUR PEOPLE ADMITTED WRONG DOING. SHAME ON THIS COMPANY FOR DOING A YOUNG LADY LIKE THIS THAT HAS WORKED HARD TO GET HER CAR IN THE FIRST PLACE.. AND ALL SHE WANTS TO DO IS HAVE A CAR TO BE ABLE TO SEE HER FAMILY WHEN SHE CAN AND HAVE A WAY BACK AND FORTH FROM SCHOOL….

      • iveyphotography

        Very true!

  • 2sister

    If someone had just gone on to the property and stolen the car by hot wiring it, I could understand the no liability. This, however, is different. The dealership admitted to leaving the keys either in the car or on the car. This is a case of gross negligence and incompetency on the part of the dealership. The dealership should be held responsible and, the dealership should hold itself responsible. Pay her for the car. You owe her at least that much.

  • betty

    This is outrageous! And the lack of compassion from this owner is astounding. Is this what it has come to with businesses? How sad.

  • shootgp

    The family should sue the dealership!!! The dealership is criminally negligent I believe; but then again I’m not a lawyer. If I understand correctly, if you are criminally negligent in your actions, then you can be held responsible civilly. The Smith’s should try to file a criminal complaint with the local PD.

    I think maybe Chandler might have a little help with tuition this semester. :-)

    Below is a quote and link to the Texas DMV website.

    “Leaving Keys in Vehicle is Illegal

    Yes, that’s right. Not only is it illegal to leave your keys in your unattended vehicle, but if your vehicle is stolen with the keys in it, your insurance company may not cover your loss.”

  • Cee Jay

    Still shaking my head on this one. Karma is a wonderful thing. I hope Ms. Smith is rolling again soon. Get a good lawyer and I’m guessing she’ll be able to upgrade.

  • Rick Perry is an Aggie

    Sounds like an Aggie joke. Only an Aggie could drive to a dealership and have to walk away with less than he came.

  • Callen

    Dealer had the chance to be a hero….

  • Enlightened

    By the time I’d finish with them, my whole family would be driving brand new Fords! For free! And they would pay the taxes!

  • Mr Black

    Landers says, “Walmart wouldn’t loan you a car, and neither would Channel 11.”. Well, neither Walmart or Channel 11 has a mechanic or rep standing outside to demand your keys to work on your car. When I get out of my car at the dealership, I keep my keys on my person. The rep has to come to me with “Hey where’s the keys?” or “Can I have the keys please?”, then the car is in the care of the shop once you hand the keys to the rep/mechanic. Let my car turn up missing and we’ll see who’s responsible!

  • MPT54

    According to Mr. Landers concept, the consumer has no reasonable expectation to believe when they drop something off for service, that it will be their upon their return. Shame on you Mr. Landers and shame on Ford for allowing you to represent them. God will not bless what the devil has ahold of. This young lady put her trust in your dealership and this is how you treat your customers. Remember this day when your closing the doors to your business….. Karma………

  • lucy699

    So sorry you went to a dearlship that is a JERK! I will never go there and purchase a vehicle or have my oil changed there. Its hard enough for kids to go to college now with the cost of education and unemployment so high. It is horrible what they did and they should be responsible. Know there are people that do care about your loss and pray for you. Good luck in school.

  • Stacy Mark Phillips

    “we ain’t responsible like Wallmart or Target isn’t when u park on their lots”……….UMM….I dont take my car to walmart and give them the keys. when someone GIVES YOU a vehicle it’s is ur responsablity to protect that property until the person comes to pick it up…

  • Diana Wilson

    That just about fits the level of the blame game all over the country. Let’s not be responsible people, just blame it on others and see how our bottom line shakes out. Who cares about anyone or anything except themselves anymore. Save yourselves only, who cares about other human beings? Dirt Balls!!!

  • Harry

    Folks, the whole key to this issue is “reasonable care and custody”. When this young lady turned her keys over to the dealership, she relied on them to exercise reasonable care and custody of her vehicle and THEY DID NOT. By admitting they left the keys in the car, they essentially have admitted liability. The dealerships’ insurance company has no choice, they will HAVE to pay to replace her vehicle or face a VERY costly trial, one of which is a VERY good bet they will lose as insurance companies typically do in court. (BTW, I am a licensed insurance agent and I’ve seen this before)

  • Mari Smith

    OMGosh!! This dealership is absolutely horrid!!! If I still lived in the general area I would say to set up some sort of protest!! A Sit-in or even a picketline!! Try and get the WORLD to know what kind of dirtbags run this place! That girl left her property in your “care” and YOU were the one who left the keys UNSECURED!! Stupid!! This girl should now major in Prosecution just to be able to come back and sue the pants off of ALL OF THEM!! You have my support Chandler!!!

    • Jennifer

      Mari Smith…funny that you say this! Chandler has worked so hard all of her life & became a National Merit Scholar in high school, chose A&M as her school, and IS studying to go to law school. ; ). All of these supportive comments are bringing tears to my eyes. As her mom, I am so unbelievably proud of my girl and HATE to see this happen to her.

  • Superguy

    The Dealership owner What an idiot! Whatever happens to a car while in a dealers care Is their responsibility and this guy should be stripped of his Ford Dealership for making these foolish statements. He should give her a new car for this and fire the stooges who did this.Btw did they break state law too because, if I am not mistaken there is a state law against leaving cars in a vehicle. I feel bad for the victims here but, the dealership owner needs to do the right thing instead of acting like an idiot which he is essitenaly hurting the Ford Name and His Business

  • Charlie

    I think every one is missing the point here as to blame. Isn’t W’s Craw Ford Ranch near there? It must be Bush’s fault. Sounds to me like a crawfish story all the way.

  • morris

    Amazing. I stopped driving and buying Fords in 1980 after my experience with Ford Motor Company and dealers.

    Sounds typically Ford to me.

  • bbtech

    Anyone that would do business with this dealership in the future, after reading this story, has questionable judgement.

  • Trizone

    Nice to know. You will have a PR nightmare on your hands in the near future. I hope they sue your business and you for your callousness and disregard for your customers. Obviously Steve Landers is also not too smart to make such an antagonistic and careless remark. We will see what happens now.

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