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'Help Me Hank': Valet repair battle

What you need to know about valet parking

TAYLOR, Mich. – Imagine leaving your car with a valet, picking it up later and when you start to drive away, it breaks down. It happened to Crystal Caldwell of Taylor during an especially stressful time in her life.

"Everything was just taking a toll on me. I was making myself sick," Caldwell told "Help Me Hank."

Everything included a new baby, a knee injury, physical therapy and then a busted clutch.

"It's been so crazy with me going back and forth to therapy, trying to get back on track so I can get back to work, being a mom," she said.

Caldwell said she left her car with a Premier Parking valet at the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan in Detroit on Feb. 3. She picked her car up, started driving and then something went horribly wrong.

"I ended up popping the clutch back up, and tried to continue and it wouldn't happen. So the car

just fully broke down," Caldwell said.

She said she suspected a valet who didn't know how to drive a stick shift did something to the clutch and her mechanics agreed.

She said when she first reported the problem to Premier Parking first the company was eager to work things out. She said the firm agreed to pay for a rental car and authorized the repairs totaling more than $3,000 at Bob Maxey Ford in Detroit.

While she didn't get anything in writing, Caldwell said she was trusting the company to honor its word. However, she said once the work was done, Premier Parking put the process in reverse, offering just $1,000, along with covering the rental car.

For Caldwell, that $2,000 difference was critical and she quickly became frustrated as the days and weeks went by.

"Don't tell someone that you're going to be responsible and take care of the situation and don't do it. It's not fair," she told "Help Me Hank."

"Help Me Hank" to the rescue

That's when she called "Help Me Hank" to investigate. The consumer team contacted Premiere Parking. The company answered our inquiry with a

surprising email.

Most of the email outlined reasons the company was not responsible for the repairs, claiming the damage was long-term in nature.

However, the last line of the email read, "We have authorized payment to repair shop and await for Ms. Caldwell to contact our office."

"Help Me Hank" told Caldwell to get back in touch with Premier Parking and then waited to see if they would follow through on the promise in that email.

Legal advice

Many people may hand keys over to a valet and not think twice. It might comfort some to know that if there's a problem with their car, our legal expert says it's the responsibility of the valet company.

"If they damage your car, they're responsible," said attorney Neil Rockind.

He said valet companies are responsible even if they hand you a claim check with with a liability waiver.

"I don't care what the little ticket says on the back or in the fine print. That's just their effort to try to dissuade you from pursuing your rights," Rockind said.

He urged consumers in Caldwell's situation to vigorously pursue their rights and credits her for her persistence.

"A less diligent consumer would have just thrown up her hands and said, 'It's just too much trouble.'"

Customer reunited with her ride

After a long delay and a big headache, Caldwell was finally been reunited with her ride. "Help Me Hank" cameras were rolling as she went to Bob Maxey Ford to pick up her repaired, freshly washed Ford Focus.

Premier Parking paid the repair bill in full and paid the bill for the rental car.

Management did not respond to a request for an interview.

"Oh my God, I'm so happy to get my car back. I can get back on the road again. I'm just so excited," Caldwell said as she prepared to drive away. "Hank, you are so awesome!"

If you have a consumer issue you think "Help Me Hank" should investigate, leave a message at 313-298-WDIV or send an email to helpmehank@clickondetroit.com.