HOUSTON — Road hazards, like potholes and dangerous debris, can cause thousands of dollars in damage to your vehicle. One woman asked KPRC Local 2 investigative reporter Amy Davis when those hazards are on private property, who’s responsible for the damage? Davis explained who should pay up.
You’d hope that any business that causes damage to your property because it failed to take care of its own would do the right thing.
Some business owners just may not see it that way. In those instances, small claims court may be your only option. “I was coming on Gessner,” explained Florencia Brannan. One wrong turn into a parking lot on the corner of Gessner and Westpark left Brannan bloody and her car more than battered.
“It was very painful,” said Brannan. “I didn’t know what had happened.”
What happened was Brannan drove right into a huge hole in the ground. “The impact was tremendous,” she said. And the bills that followed were expensive. It was $1,000 just to fix her car. She says doctors discovered a blood clot on her brain, so doctor visits and medical expenses are still adding up.
“They were careless,” Brannan said. Brannan called KPRC when the owner of the parking lot would not return her calls. He called after a message from us, and Brannan says he told her the lids to the holes were stolen.
“I think it’s pretty negligent, especially because he was aware of the problem,” explained Brannan.
“If this has been an open hole for more than a week there may be an argument that even if they didn’t know about the condition, they should have been checking on the work that was being done on their property to make certain that there were no unsafe conditions,” said David Tiede, director of the Texas Consumer Complaint Center.
Tiede says Brannan’s may be a classic case of negligence, but she would have to prove a few things in court. First, is it reasonable to expect that drivers will turn into the parking lot? There were no cones or flags to warn drivers not to. “Did the property owner do enough to protect a driver who would forseeably use that area from this kind of harm?” asked Tiede.
“They should have put something obstructing that area because anybody, a little kid, could have drown in there,” said Brannan. The holes remained open until the day after KPRC called. Then, the station noticed someone filled them in and put tape across one of the entrances to the driveway.
The owner of the parking lot never returned calls from KPRC. Brannan says when he called her, he agreed to pay for her car repairs, but did not want to discuss medical bills. That’s why she hired an attorney to pursue the case in court.