Woman claims garbage truck damaged her car, but city won’t pay for repairs

Deana Stokes Sullivan dss@thetelegram.com
Published on October 15, 2011
Rhonda Webb looks over damage to her car Thursday that she says was caused by a city of St. John’s garbage truck. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Rhonda Webb, a single-parent living in the east end of St. John’s, says the city isn’t being fair in its response to damage caused to her car by a municipal garbage truck.

Webb said she parked on Guzzwell Drive Tuesday around 1:10 p.m. to pick up mail at her former residence.

She said she looked in her rearview mirror before getting out of the car and saw some garbage trucks down the street, but none appeared close to her.

But Webb said as soon as she began to open her driver’s door, the back end of a garbage truck hooked the door and brought it up solid against the truck.

“We couldn’t even budge the door,” she said.

After the door was freed, she said it wouldn’t close. Webb said the city employees told her she would have to drive her car home while holding the broken door.

“There was a bunch of garbagemen on that street that day. I guess where it was a holiday beforehand, they were trying to catch up or whatever on the garbage. There were at least three trucks on that street and they all stopped, in disbelief really, because how often does something freaky happen like that?” she said.

Since Tuesday, Webb said her car has been parked in her driveway and she still can’t drive it. She said when she contacted the city’s claims department, she was told the city isn’t taking any responsibility.

In addition to not being able to use her car, Webb said she’s had to take time off work. Her hand was on the door when it was struck by the truck and she said she began having pain in her arm that night, which her doctor has diagnosed as muscle injury.

Looking back, Webb said, “I could have very easily stepped out on the road and be crushed by that truck. I was pretty devastated about the whole thing.”

She said the city’s claims officer told her to go ahead and get a lawyer if that’s what she wants to do.

“That’s not what I wanted to do. I wanted my car fixed, but now I’m injured from it too,” she said.

“Why are they not responsible? I don’t understand that.”

Webb said as a single mom, she doesn’t have lots of money to have the car fixed or buy another one, and she only had liability insurance in order to reduce her costs.

She said her insurance company told her that even though the accident wasn’t her fault, if she had collision coverage they could fix her car and go after the city for the cost of the repairs.

Webb said the car was a 1996 Toyota Corolla, but it was in good working condition and got her to and from work and around the city to do her shopping.

She said she didn’t think to call the police when the accident occurred, but she filed a report on Wednesday and has contacted a lawyer.

Webb said she probably should have taken photos at the scene and found a witness, but she was so distraught she didn’t think of that.

“Honest to God, if I were to put my foot out on the road, he probably would have took me with the door because it happened so fast,” she said.

Webb said she was surprised by the city’s “nonchalant” attitude.

“(Like), ‘Too bad for you because we know we don’t have to pay for this.’ But, here I am a single parent trying to make a go of it.

“I work and I need my car for work.”

The city has declined comment.

Jennifer Mills, the city’s communications officer, said Thursday, “in any case where there is the potential for litigation, the city can’t comment.”