To Whom It May Concern,
I have lived in the San Fernando Valley for over 20 years. I work, pay my taxes and have never been in legal trouble. I have had pothole damage to my vehicles a number of times in the past, but just paid for the damage myself or ignored the damage done to my car.
In November of 2011, I was exiting a mini mall in Studio City from a full stop, and my car slammed down into a hidden pothole and I heard something crack underneath my car. I immediately pulled over and saw a dent on my front fender, but had no idea at that time what the full extent of the damage was to my car. I went into a store in the shopping center to ask [the] owner if he knew about the bad potholes exiting the driveway to all of the stores, and he told me yes, he did, and that he had asked the City to fix the potholes numerous times and had many customer complaints and the City had not responded. He said maybe I would have better luck and told me to call 311 to report potholes and damage done to my car.
So I called 311, they took a report about the potholes and gave me the number to call to get a claim form from the City for damages. I received that form about 2 weeks later and I not only filled out the forms in full, but I included an estimate for damages from Honda, which was over $1000, because I have severe front end damage underneath my car now. It almost scrapes the ground because it is hanging so low and has a crack underneath and has to be replaced.
I waited about 2 months and didn’t hear anything from the City Attorney’s Office, so I called and was put through to a really rude clerk (he said his name was Tom Wong) and he got very defensive when I asked how long this was going to take and what I was supposed to do about my car. In short, he told me that I would just have to wait because my claim had not even been assigned to an investigator yet to make a determination, or I could sue the City of Los Angeles. I knew I wasn’t getting anywhere with him, so I hung up.
Less than TWO DAYS later, I received a letter from the City Attorney’s Office, from an investigator named Craig Bushey, who denied my claim, with no explanation or basis for the decision and was once again told to sue the City, if I chose to. Not only is 2 days not enough time to investigate a claim, but I was never contacted regarding any details about my claim or my car damages. This action leads me to believe that the clerk forwarded my claim to an investigator right away and he told him to deny my claim just because he didn’t like me. So apparently, this was not about he damages done to my car.
I am not working right now, I cannot pay any deductible to my insurance company to pay for the damages and I need my car to find work and I went through all of the proper channels to get my car damage covered by the City that I have paid taxes to, for over 20 years. I am very disappointed and frustrated by these events and I am wondering if there is anyone that can help me … other than suing the City, which is the only advice that I was given TWICE.
I don’t think that the taxpayers should have to pay for court time for legitimate car damage caused by a City street, do you? The ironic thing is, they fixed the potholes at the location of the incident over a month ago, because of my report.
I would really appreciate some help with this matter if you could. Thank you very much for your time.
Studio City Resident
Here’s part of our reply to Patti:
In the Naked City, there are a million stories like this — the City just turns its eyes away from such things cause they figure most citizens will give up and go away …
Here’s what I would do:
1) Contact your local council person and complain and ask them to take action.
2) Call the mayor’s office and complain.
3) Try contacting David Goldstein at CBS in Los Angeles; he does investigative articles about incompetence and crime in Los Angeles; you can say something like “if this happened to me, it must have happened to many, many others and the city is shirking its responsibilities to taxpayers.” He may “smell” something: email@example.com
4) You might also try “Fightback With David Horowitz”; Horowitz used to be a consumer reporter on TV: firstname.lastname@example.org
5) David Lazarus at the L.A. Times is always going after government and corporate offenders and gets results: contact him at David.Lazarus@latimes.com
6) Also at the L.A. Times is Michael Hiltzik, who does some expose work: email@example.com
7) Find a lawyer to work on spec to mount a class-action suit against the city on behalf of all the people who have had their vehicles damaged by potholes, and were not able to collect.
Good luck and let me know what happens.