CBS 5 Advocate

Good luck proving damage from city trash trucks

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If a trash truck damages your property, the city will usually compensate you if you can prove it was their truck, but that's a lot harder than you may think.

The process is the same with most cities: You file a claim, the city investigates and makes a ruling. But even if you think your proof is rock solid, the city could deny your claim anyway.

Brian Debowey says a Scottsdale trash truck was driving down the alley behind his house, miscalculated a turn, and hit his wall causing significant damage. He didn't see it, but he has proof; it just doesn't seem good enough for Scottsdale.

"Essentially, they said they didn't see how the truck did the damage," Debowey said.

Debowey's claim filed with Scottsdale included pictures of yellow paint on the wall, pictures he took of the actual truck in question with yellow paint missing from its bumper, and, most importantly, measurements; measurements showing it had to be the Scottsdale collection truck.

"The height, their side-loader truck is the only truck with a bed that height that goes through this alley way that could do this damage," Debowey said.

Debowey says the paint on the pillar and the unusually high bed on the truck line up perfectly. He believes his evidence proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the truck did the damage, but Scottsdale denied his claim saying they found no such transfer of paint between their truck and his wall.

"I, I don't know what to do, I mean, pretty much, they say pursue it in court, hire an attorney and sue us," Debowey said.

He now has to come up with $2000 in repairs out of his own pocket. Debowey doesn't know what else he, or other Scottsdale homeowners can do, to prove damage caused by a trash truck.

"This is ridiculous, I've lost a lot of time on work, taking off time to deal with this with bids and emailing back and forth," Debowey said.

An official for the City of Scottsdale said it was possible its truck caused one or two chips to the wall, they offered a $200 settlement, but Debowey says that is insulting.

The City claims there is no evidence supporting our Debowey's claim and that the majority of the damage to the wall is either from settling or from damage that doesn't match the profile of their truck.

Scottsdale has provided their reasoning for their decision in the following statement: 

"When the city received the complaint from Mr. Debowey, a manager from the city’s Solid Waste Department did a site inspection. He found no evidence that a city truck was responsible for the damage and there were no witnesses to the alleged incident. No yellow paint transfer from a city truck to the wall was found during the city inspection. Mr. Debowey emailed photos to the city which showed yellow paint on the wall, but this paint was not visible in the photos taken by the Solid Waste Department. Approximately 10 days after the first inspection, a city claims inspector and a solid waste manager, along with the truck that services that area, went to the location. No yellow paint transfer was found.  The only impact heights that might have matched the city solid waste truck were two corner chips on the wall. The inspector determined that the corner wall pillar leaning outward into the alley was due to wall settling, not impact. The cost to completely repair the wall – settling and chipping from impact -- was estimated at $800. The inspector determined that three upper tiers of block may have been hit by a large truck or trailer but there was no yellow paint and the impact shape on the wall did not match that of the city truck. In addition, it was observed that there wasn’t enough room for the city truck in question to be in a position to back into this portion of the wall. It was physically not possible for the city truck to cause this damage. The corner pillars of the wall were observed to have numerous chips at varying heights that have accumulated over time.  None had yellow paint transfer. The city inspector asked Mr. Debowey about the lack of yellow paint transfer.  He replied that rain must have washed it off.  Automotive paint is activated polyurethane and is not water soluble. If the city solid waste truck had hit the wall, the city inspector was convinced it would have retained paint markings. No evidence was found to support Mr. Debowey’s claim. The majority of the claimed damage is either from settling or from damage that doesn’t match the profile of the city Solid Waste truck. Since it was possible that the city truck may have caused one or two chips to the wall, the city inspector opted to provide a customer service based settlement of $200 to repair that damage.

The city of Scottsdale takes claims filed by residents and businesses seriously. It works diligently to maintain a safe environment and to provide excellent service to customers. Mistakes happen. When the city is at fault in an incident, the policy is to respond quickly and fairly to ensure all parties are adequately compensated. The city also has a fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of Scottsdale to pay only those claims where evidence indicates the city is at fault. The claim relating to Mr. Debowey’s wall did not meet the standard of evidence to indicate the city was or could have been responsible for the preponderance of damage.  For that reason, his claim was partially denied. Scottsdale residents should have confidence that the city responds quickly and fairly to notices of claim. We want to do the right thing. If an incident occurs, contact our Risk Management Division at 480-312-2490 and they will assist you with the process for gathering and preserving evidence and making a claim."

 Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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