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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Hertz Says It’s Not Liable for Courthouse Siege

(CN) - The Hertz Corporation and its insurer are seeking to avoid liability in the case of a man who rented a car in June 2014 and then used it to lay siege to a Georgia courthouse.

Dennis Marx, 48, was scheduled to appear in the Forsyth County Court on the morning for Friday, June 6 ,2014, to enter a pleas to charges of possessing marijuana with intent to distribute, a felony punishable with up to 10 years in prison.

Shortly before his hearing was to get under way, his attorney told Superior Court Judge Jeffery Bagley that Marx intended to plead guilty, but was running late.

What the attorney didn't know was that the day before, his client had stopped by a local Hertz dealership, rented a Nissan Armada SUV, accepted the offer of taking out a liability insurance supplement from the AmeriGuard Risk Retention Group, and took the vehicle back to his home, where he loaded it with an assault rifle, several buckets containing homemade explosives and ammunition, as well as smoke grenades, and assorted supplies, including food and drinking water.

When Marx arrived at the courthouse, he began throwing smoke bombs and firing his assault weapon at the courthouse, striking Sheriff's deputy James Rush in the leg. Rush returned fire and Marx was killed during a gun battle with the deputy and a local SWAT team.

Court officials later said because Marx, came to the courthouse with food and water, they believe he intended to lay siege to the building and take several hostages.

Investigators later said Marx was a member of the "sovereign citizen" movement, a group that believes the federal government is illegitimate and cannot act with the force of law. As a result, they said, he frequently clashed with police and the legal system.

Deputy Rush subsequently sued Marx's estate for damages in the Superior Court of Forsyth County.

On Oct. 23, Hertz and AmeriGuard filed a complaint asking the court to determine that they have not obligations to defend or indemnify the estate because the deputy's injuries did not arise from the normal, anticipated use of the vehicle, and that the supplemental insurance he purchased only pertained to bodily injury or property damage "that was neither expected not intended."

"The acts committed by Dennis Marx before and during his assault on the Forsyth County Courthouse were illegal, criminal, intentional, willful, wanton, or reckless," the plaintiff companies said. "The assault by Denis Marx on the ... courthouse did not arise out of this use of the rental vehicle."

The companies are represented by Thomas Brennan of Fain, Major & Brennan in Atlanta. Representatives of the defendants could not immediately be reached for comment.

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