ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) – A customer who had serial problems with her $70,000 Mercedes claims in court that a car dealer defamed and terrified her by calling police and falsely telling them she had threatened, “I’m armed, God dammit,” and that employees had “better duck and cover.”
Susan Colatosti sued Keeler Motor Car Co. and its employee Michael Severino, in Albany County Supreme Court.
Colatosti claims she got more than she bargained for after asking to talk to a manager at the Mercedes dealership about the convertible she bought there a year ago. She claims the car dealer called in false threats to police, who arrived with lights flashing and sirens blaring.
“Multiple police officers then exited their vehicles and … rushed toward plaintiff with their guns drawn and restrained plaintiff, causing plaintiff significant physical and emotional pain and humiliation,” Colatosti says in her complaint.
She seeks punitive damages for “intentional, reckless, willful, wanton and malicious” conduct.
“As a result of defendants’ defamatory statements, plaintiff has suffered physical pain and damage, mental anguish, shame and humiliation, injury to her reputation, and has otherwise been exposed to public hatred, contempt, ridicule and disgrace,” the complaint states.
Colatosti says that in March 2011 she bought a convertible Mercedes-Benz E350A coupe, the second Mercedes she had bought from Keeler, the only authorized Mercedes dealership in the Albany area. The business is on a busy highway in suburban Colonie.
Colatosti says her car’s convertible top and rear window did not work properly, so she took it to Keeler’s service department four times last year and again in April this year.
It was in April that a Keeler employee whom she describes as “irate” told her no manager was on the premises, then recanted and said a manager would be available shortly.
“Defendants then called the police maliciously and, without any basis whatsoever in fact, falsely told the police that plaintiff was engaged in the criminal act of repeatedly, directly and physically threatening defendants with a handgun and otherwise intentionally placing or attempting to place Defendants in fear of serious physical injury,” the complaint states.
“Defendants told the police that plaintiff had stated: ‘I’m a correctional officer, I’m armed God dammit,’ ‘I will drive that vehicle through Keeler’s front window,’ and that defendants ‘better duck and cover’ because she was armed and intended to injure defendants,” according to the complaint.
Colatosti says that’s nonsense, that she “was peacefully waiting to speak with a manager and making small talk with other Keeler customers.”
She says she had no handgun, and that “(a)t no time did plaintiff present any danger whatsoever to Keeler, its employees, or its customers.”
When police arrived, Colatosti says she was “held against her will at the Keeler facility by defendants and the police for a substantial period of time while she was personally searched and questioned, and her vehicle was searched.”
After being “imprisoned and confined,” Colatosti says, she finally was released “[w]hen it became clear that plaintiff had no gun, had not threatened anyone, and was a peaceful and longstanding customer of Keeler.”
But she says the car dealer held her car for days, and told her “that she could not pick up her Mercedes absent a police escort and prior notice.”
She says she got a friend to retrieve the car.
Keeler, whose website states, “We are dedicated to servicing your vehicle and fixing it right the first time,” told Colatosti “that she could not do any further business” with it, according to the complaint.
Colatosti seeks punitive damages and costs for defamation and false imprisonment.
She is represented by William Nolan, with Whiteman Osterman & Hanna.