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Germantown denies pothole damage claim to vehicle

Woman says village was negligent in fixing road

March 4, 2014

Germantown — As the after-effects of a long, harsh winter begin showing, municipal leaders throughout the region could face situations similar to one dealt with Monday by Germantown officials.

At the recommendation of Germantown's insurance carrier, the Village Board voted to deny a resident's claim of vehicular damage that allegedly was caused by driving over a pothole.

Germantown resident Tammi Birdsall's claim actually stemmed from an incident in May, well before winter conditions crept in, but similar claims from winter conditions could funnel into municipal centers in the months ahead.

In documents filed with the village, Birdsall alleges she incurred tire and wheel well damage May 13 after driving over a pothole near the intersection of Old Farm and Donges Bay roads. The estimated damage hovers around nearly $850.

The claim against the village was officially filed Feb. 7 and went through the traditional review routes. Village Clerk Barbara Goeckner said she received confirmation from the village's insurer, Statewide Services Claim Division.

"(They) investigated the claim and determined there was no negligence on the village of Germantown," Goeckner said. "They are recommending the village disallow the claim."

In a letter to the village, accompanying her Feb. 7 letter, Birdsall alleges the pothole in question was not fixed until November. She said she discussed the matter with a number of members of the village's public works department before filing the claim.

Abby Weiss, a claims adjuster with Statewide Services, said the denial was based on an inspection of the area.

"Our denial is based on the fact that the investigation has found no negligence on the village of Germantown," Weiss wrote in correspondence filed with the village.

In his dialogue with public works employees, Weiss said pothole patching in 2013 occurred between Jan. 3 to May 1 and June 19 to July 30.

"Donges Bay Road was inspected, and no areas of road were found with one- to two-inch depths were found," Weiss wrote in a letter to Birdsall. "Since no full-depth potholes were discovered, the village had no notice of the pothole at issue prior to the occurrence of your damage."

Weiss said he believed the village should be granted immunity because of the lack of notification in advance of the incident.

In follow-up communication with the village, Birdsall's husband, Robert Birdsall, took issue with a number of problem pothole spots this winter — particularly along sections of Fond du Lac Road.

"I'm really an understanding person, but when something is reported and not taken care of, it is irritating...when damage is done to a vehicle that could have been prevented," Robert Birdsall wrote in an email.

Director of Public Works Dan Ludwig said the problem pothole spots outlined in Robert Birdsall's correspondence would be looked into further.

At Monday's meeting, few board members spoke on the issue before voting 8-0 in favor of denying the claim.

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