A Norfolk, Virginia woman named Chavonne Grant had her car parked outside her house on Wednesday, October 12th. On that day her neighbor came to her door to let her know a city trash truck had slid into her 2007 BMW 328 parked out front.
Grant told WavyTV 10, “There’s a gaping hole right there, the whole tire rode, the tire was flattened. All this. The bumper was pushed up, but the bumper was on the ground. It’s completely cracked through here. The hood had to be pushed down.”
According to Grant, the driver was “extremely apologetic,” and that he shared he was moving too fast and over or underestimated her car.
Grant claims the driver told her the city’s insurance would cover the damages. A police report was filed and eventually, an adjuster was sent out to survey the damage.
She received a letter a few weeks later. The letter stated that the city of Norfolk had sovereign immunity and that they wouldn’t be paying for repairs to her car.
She was understandably frustrated by the notice, “I’m a single mom. I was overwhelmed. This car is supposed to be my teenage daughter’s car. If I hit your car right now, I would be liable. It just makes it seem they can do anything to our property and I’m sure people are not aware of this.”
According to attorney and GOP State Delegate Tim Anderson, the law dates back to the 11th amendment, which states you cannot sue the federal government.
This rule applies to states according to Anderson “and the states can say if that applies to localities, and in Virginia it does.”
Anderson went on, “If the government is performing a core function, administerial act, like picking up trash, then if they damage your property, you can’t sue them. That’s the law.” The only exception to this is if you can prove gross negligence.
“There’s not insurance companies that cover damages to the government. They self-insure. If cities want to allow themselves to be sued for negligence, it’s the taxpayers that are going to have to pay that. They have to raise taxes to make enough money to pay for all of the claims.”
The city of Norfolk’s attorney issued a statement:
The City of Norfolk is committed to safety and ensures that employees operating City vehicles and equipment are trained accordingly. However, given the nature and extent of the City’s operations across numerous Departments and throughout the City, there unfortunately are situations where property damage occurs.
Information regarding the process for submitting a claim and the claims process is available on the City’s website.
When the City of Norfolk receives a claim for property damage, an investigation is conducted as we are obliged to make a determination whether the City is legally responsible for the damage. A determination whether the City has legal liability is based on the facts of the event and on application of the law to the facts. Many times, claimants present sympathetic cases for losses, but the City, like other local governmental entities, can only pay damages when it is legally liable.
Given that the money used to pay claims comes from public funds, the City, in the interests of its taxpayers, properly asserts all available defenses to claims made against it. Governmental immunity is such a defense. Under various federal and Virginia laws and court rulings, the City of Norfolk, like all other cities across Virginia, has immunity for many governmental functions, including refuse collection. When immunity is available as a defense, the City properly asserts it. If the City simply accepted all claims asserted against it without consideration of the defenses legally available to it, public funds would be drastically impacted.
With respect to the specific claim made by Ms. Chavonne Grant, the City first received the claim on January 23, 2023; the claim was thoroughly investigated; the claim was denied on February 21, 2023. The investigation determined that the City’s driver was actively picking up refuse at the time of the incident and that, therefore, the City had immunity with respect to this claim and is not liable. Given that the City is not liable and has denied the claim, it would be suggested that Ms. Grant should continue to pursue her property damage claim with her insurance company.
Currently, Grant is considering hiring an attorney and may have to sell her car as she shared her insurance premium would double if she filed a claim.
Norfolk is a city run by Democrats with high crime rates and a history of political corruption. Many may want to add this information to their cons list if considering moving there in our opinion.
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