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.”
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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.