The City of Alexandria, Virginia, claimed immunity after a trash truck struck a resident’s SUV, causing $4,600 in damages.
Elena Mazzeo’s SUV was parked along the curb when it was struck more than a month ago.
“As it was driving down the road, it hit the rear of our car, lifted it in the air and dropped it,” Mazzeo said.
Police took a report, and so did a solid waste supervisor. They apologized and promised to take care of the damages, Mazzeo said, but three weeks later the Mazzeos received a letter saying the city would not pay for the repairs because of sovereign immunity.
“There is no liability against the city or county for a simply negligent act,” attorney Victor Glasberg said. “There’s no legal recourse. It's a very sorry state of affairs because it doesn't enhance the relationship of the citizenry to their government.”
Citizens only get payment is there was gross negligence – more than a simple mistake.
In a statement, Alexandria's city attorney wrote, in part: “Under federal and state laws and court rulings, the city is generally not liable for damages caused in the course of providing core government services.”
He said the policy of not paying saves the city money.
But the city the Mazzeo hopes the city will reconsider.
“We see this as a matter of right and wrong,” she said.
Several other jurisdictions also rely on sovereign immunity to avoid payouts, but in Arlington, each claim is evaluated on its own merits.