3OYS: Motorist says Maricopa County 'negligent' for damaging car

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Theresa Curtis has a job that requires her to drive.  That's why she recently traded in her old car and decided to upgrade to a 2011 Chrysler 200. "I just bought it about three months ago," Curtis told 3 On Your Side.

Curtis loves the way her car drives and looks.  That is, until she was pulling into a parking space at Maricopa County Superior Court just off of 40th Street and Union Hills. Ever since she pulled into that space, her car hasn't looked or driven the same.  "It was like a crunch into the plastic," she said. "Like a crunching noise, like a scraping to the plastic underneath my car."

Curtis backed up and heard more crunching.  She jumped out and immediately took cell phone pictures that clearly show the culprit.  The pictures show a piece of metal re-bar sticking out from the cement parking block. It was just enough to clip under Curtis' car, rip off her bumper and cause other damage.

"To me, that's just negligence," Curtis said.  Negligence on the county's part, she thought, since it's their parking lot.

So, Curtis got hold of court security inside, and they also took pictures of her damaged vehicle and of that cement block containing the protruding metal re-bar.

Later, Curtis eventually got an estimate to repair her car which amounted to right around $1,300.  She filled out some county paperwork, gathered her pictures and submitted everything to the department that handles insurance claims against Maricopa County.

After waiting more than a month, Maricopa County sent Curtis a notice resembling a form letter saying it wasn't paying to repair her damaged car.  Why? According to Curtis, "They (the County) had no prior notice that a piece of re-bar was sticking out, so because no one at the County noticed and repaired it before the accident, they're saying its' not their fault."

3 On Your Side got involved to make sure Maricopa County reached the right conclusion by denying her claim. We also went to the parking lot to inspect the cement parking blocks.  That's when we noticed that since Curtis' claim, many of the blocks had some cement putty placed over the re-bar to keep it from popping up.

As for the county?  Well, they eventually got back to 3 On Your Side and said they are sticking to their original decision and refusing to pay because they claim they had no idea the problem existed until Curtis brought it to their attention.

Curtis says she appreciates 3 On Your Side's involvement, but she also strongly disagrees with the county.  She also says she's now forced to drive around with a damaged vehicle. "Thank goodness the car is still drivable. At least I can get to work. But there's plastic flapping in the wind and it's causing even more damage to my car."

3 On Your Side asked the county if officials would consider inspecting cement parking blocks on other county-owned property to make sure something like this doesn't happen to other motorists.  They never answered that question.