AutoNation Dealerships Settle Lawsuit

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March 6, 2018—Nearly six dozen operators of the country’s largest new car retailer have been ordered to pay a total of $2.1 million in civil penalties, a settlement in a lawsuit that included allegations of illegal disposal of hazardous waste, the San Diego County District Attorney’s office said last week.

The fines are part of a nearly $3.4 million settlement of the lawsuit, which the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office filed in 2013 against subsidiaries of AutoNation, which has 57 dealerships and collision centers in California.

Prosecutors accused the defendants of illegally disposing of hazardous waste, as well as violating laws regarding storing hazardous materials and disposing of customer records.

On top of the $2.1 million in penalties, the defendants agreed to pay $380,00 in costs.

The defendants will also spend $900,000 to enhance compliance with hazardous waste laws, including establishing a full-time environmental director who will monitor compliance and training.

Authorities said the stipulated judgment resolves a case that began in 2013, after Santa Clara County environmental health inspectors found hazardous waste violations inside the service departments of several AutoNation dealerships. That led to a string of undercover inspections of the dealerships’ trash containers in several counties.

The inspections uncovered illegal disposal of automotive fluids, non-empty aerosols, used oil filters, and electronic waste, authorities said. At one dealership, inspectors found used motor oil, according to the news release.

The trash also contained invoices and other documents with personal information of customers. State law requires businesses to take reasonable measures — such as shredding or erasing — when disposing of personal information.

AutoNation cooperated with the investigation, and “took steps to improve its compliance with the environmental and consumer protection laws brought to its attention by the prosecutors,” according to the news release.

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