Records show city was dishonest about knowledge of streetlight cover that fell, damaged woman’s car

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If your car gets damaged by a pot hole or a broken city water pipe floods your basement, Kansas City has a standard response: It's not responsible because it had no way of knowing the accident would happen.

It turns out the city doesn't always tell the truth.

Courtney Keeshan, 25, was stopped at a red light at 59th and Ward Parkway when she felt her car shake.

"It was just a loud crash," Courtney recalled.

Once she stepped outside her car, she realized the large glass cover over a streetlight's bulb (and the metal plate that was supposed to hold the cover in place) had fallen on her car, causing -- as she later learned -- $2,100 in damage.

Courtney called Kansas City's 3-1-1 hotline and was told to file a claim with the city attorney's office. That was on June 22; the day of the accident. Following the city's instructions, she sent photos of the damage, a repair estimate and even a statement from a witness.

Weeks passed with no response from the city. That's when Courtney's mom Marilyn got involved.

"That's what frustrated me, we just weren't hearing back," said Mrs. Keeshan.

In August, the Keeshans finally did get an answer. Courtney's claim was denied. According to a letter written by assistant city attorney Alisa Chambers: Prior to Courtney's accident "the city had no problems with the street light and therefore could not have reasonably anticipated the occurrence in this instance."

Mrs. Keeshan was frustrated. She believes most accidents can't be anticipated, but someone should still be held responsible. But, as FOX 4 Problem Solvers discovered, there was another problem more serious problem with the city's response: The city wasn't telling the truth.

City records show that on June 21, the day before Courtney's accident, a call came in about that same streetlight. The caller wanted "to report a streetlight cover is hanging down making it a hazard for pedestrians and vehicles."

Records also show that the city sent out a contractor that day to fix the problem. But the fix apparently didn't work. The next day Courtney's car was hit by that very same streetlight.

The city's own internal emails from July, prove the city attorney's office knew all this before it denied Courtney's claim.

"That's what it sounds like to me," said Mrs. Keeshan after we showed her the emails we found.

Even legal expert Scott Shachtman, a Kansas City attorney, was surprised by what the city attorney's office wrote to the Keeshans when denying the claim.

"This letter misrepresents the information they had," Shachtman said. "That's not OK. That needs to be addressed (by someone at the city)."

No one in the city attorney's office, or the mayor's office or even multiple city council members would talk to us about this problem. They claimed they couldn't discuss legal issues.

So how do we get this problem solved? We called Kansas City Public Works Director Sean Demory. Once we told him about Courtney's accident and pointed out the troubled history of that street light, Demory contacted the contractor who the city had hired to repair the street light. Demory said the contractor should have insurance to cover the damage to Courtney's car.

That seems simple enough and won't cost the city a dime. Why didn't the city attorney's office suggest that to Courtney Keeshan, instead of telling her a lie?