COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — A northern Idaho family has sued a car dealership, saying a mix-up over a car they loaned from the dealership led to a harrowing incident in which they were detained by armed law-enforcement officers.
The Spokesman-Review reported this week that Casey and Sheree Bryntesen, who live just east of Coeur d'Alene, are seeking more than $2.2 million plus punitive damages from Lithia Motors and Camp Automotive in Spokane.
The Bryntesens say they were driving to a Bible study at a friend's house in June with their two children and the family dog in a BMW sedan that had been loaned to them by Lithia because their own car was being repaired.
They say officers pointed weapons at them, barked rough, frightening commands that brought them to tears and impounded the vehicle.
More officers arrived and pointed rifles at the family, ordering each out of the car one by one and placing the parents in handcuffs, the lawsuit alleges. Deputies were "screaming and extremely agitated," according to the family's account.
Law enforcement officials say the incident arose when paperwork on the dealer's car wasn't properly filed and it was reported stolen.
"The employee filled out the rental paperwork but never filed it," said Kootenai County Sheriff's spokesman Stu Miller, adding he believes deputies acted appropriately. "As you know we have to go off the information presented to us to gauge the risk; generally stolen vehicles qualify as a high-risk stop"
Miller said the deputies likely were forceful.
"I'm sure the deputies gave clear, concise and loud commands," he said. "I'm also sure that they had weapons drawn until the parties were detained."
Dylan Jackson, a Seattle attorney representing Oregon-based Lithia and Camp Automotive, said the business made a "clerical error" and the company apologized to the family and offered them "substantial restitution, but they refused to take it."
The Bryntesens allege false arrest, breach of contract, negligence, defamation, infliction of emotional distress and violation of the Idaho Consumer Protection Act. They also named three company employees and BMW of North America as defendants in their lawsuit.