After streetlight falls on KC man’s car, city refuses to pay, saying it’s not liable for damages

Problem Solvers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It was a neighbor who told Parker McDaniels the bad news. 

“When I was going into my kitchen, I heard it,” Stephanie Moutry said.

The sound was the crash of streetlight lamp onto McDaniels’ car. It happened right after Christmas on a quiet cul-de-sac near 99th Street and Holmes Road.

The damage to the 1994 Honda convertible was considerable. A repair shop estimated it at $3,200.

McDaniels filed a claim with the city. A few weeks letter he got the bad news. 

“After careful examination of the facts, we do not feel the city is legally liable and therefore must deny the claim,” wrote Christopher Brooks, a claims investigator with the city’s law department.

McDaniels was upset.

“This is my only transportation, and the city should be responsible,” he said.

Personal injury attorney Scott Shachtman said it’s not that simple. He said imagine a basketball goal on your property fell over and hit your neighbor’s car. Just because it was your goal doesn’t necessarily mean you’re responsible for the damage.

“Cities, like homeowners, are not responsible because someone gets hurt on their property,” Shachtman said. “You still have to establish there was negligence.”

FOX4 Problem Solvers called the city, which told us there had been no complaints against the pole in the last two years. The city inspects the poles every four years. The pole that hit McDaniels’ car was not scheduled for a maintenance check for another few months.

After FOX4 started asking questions, the city sent a crew out the next day to examine all the poles on the cul-de-sac. Public Works Director Sean Demory said they didn’t find any visible problems with the other poles which are between 30-40 years old.

But McDaniels said the pole that hit his car, which has since been replaced, was rusting at the base. It’s a claim that his neighbor Moutry confirmed.

McDaniels said even the subcontractor working for the city who replaced the pole mentioned the rust.

“They said they weren’t surprised because the pole had rusted out, because of all the rust at the bottom,” McDaniels said.

FOX4 was unable to confirm that with the subcontractor, but a slightly fuzzy photo that McDaniels took of the pole the night it fell appeared to back up his claim that rust was visible at the base.

Problem Solvers contacted the city, as well as McDaniels’ city council member. The city has now agreed to reopen the case. We’ll let you know what happens. For now, this is a Problem Solvers in the works.

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