N4T Investigators: Blame game - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: Blame game

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Tucson - When Kimberley Brooke drove into a downtown parking garage recently, she had no idea it would start a battle with the city. The Tucson resident parked in the city-owned Depot Plaza Garage on N. 5th Ave. on the morning of Sept. 15. When she returned to her car after a work event 10 hours later, she put it in reverse, and heard a loud noise. "So I freak out," Brooke said, "jump out of the car and I look down there and there's a four inch piece of Rebar, sticking out from the concrete. Couldn't believe it."

The Rebar (reinforced steel) had come out of the wheel stop, the concrete barrier at the front of the parking spot. The front bumper and undercarriage on Brooke's 1999 BMW were damaged. The bumper doesn't look bad now but Brooke says that's because a friend Gerry-rigged it to hold it together. 

We asked Brook, "Could you have hit the barricade and caused that post to come up and hit your undercarriage?" She said, "No. I felt nothing when i pulled in and I always stay back because the bumper on my car is so low to the ground." she insists the rod was not sticking out of the ground when she parked that morning, that she would have seen it and her car would have been blocked by it. A repair shop estimated the damage at $507.00.  She thinks the city should pay, so she filed a claim. It was denied.

She said when she read denial letter, "I was shocked. I couldn't believe what I was reading."

The letter from a City Claims Adjuster says,  "Records from the Park Tucson division reveal that there were no prior complaints filed for the concrete wheel stop that caused damage to your vehicle." And, the city "...cannot be held liable for something for which it has no prior knowledge. Once the city of  Tucson has knowledge of a problem, it must be given the opportunity to rectify the problem." 

Tucson's Risk Manager, Allie Matthews told us, "In this particular case, there was no prior notice. She cited the city code which states the city cannot be held responsible unless the unsafe or defective condition is reported "at least 72 hours prior to the occurrence resulting in...damage." 

Matthews said, "Like this particular lady, we too were a victim because it was damaged. We had to repair that particular Rebar. "

Vince Rabago, a Tucson attorney who isn't involved in this complaint, often works liability cases. He says the code requiring prior notice makes no sense, that there's always a first time. "Just because you are the first person to be harmed, that doesn't mean you are barred from recovery," Rabago said. "In my mind the reasonable thing for the city to do is to reconsider this small claim and pay out."

Matthews said, "Unfortunately it did happen to her, and I believe that was indicated to her in the letter that was sent by the claims adjuster, that we apologize but it is the rules and regulations that we follow. "

We asked Brooke, "If you could talk to the powers that be who denied your claim, what would you tell them?" She said, "I would ask them to put themselves in my position. Because, I can assure you, that if they went through that same experience, they couldn't believe a letter like this."

The city says it processes about 1300 claims a year and pays out roughly 500, many of them for vehicles damaged by potholes.  If you see any unsafe condition, whether in a parking garage, or a pothole on a street, you should report it immediately to the city. Here are the instructions on filing a claim. 

If you have a story you'd like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call our tip line at 520-955-4444. 

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