By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minneapolis man just learned he is the one who will have to pay for the repairs after a city snow plow truck hit his van during the April blizzard.

That is because a state statute gives the city “immunity” in the case, even though Pete Herrera did nothing wrong.

His van is drivable, but the scratches and dents remain. He was parked on a street that appears to have plenty of space for traffic, even a plow truck.

He thought the city would be liable then, right? Well, he was wrong.

“And then you show them the pictures, everybody’s like ‘Whoa, no way!’” Herrera said.

(credit: CBS)

A city plow truck wedged against his van as it went down his street during the blizzard. Herrera says he and his neighbors were parked on the correct side of the street for the snow emergency, yet the plow still hit him.

“I just have liability, so they won’t cover nothing for me,” Herrera said.

He says the repairs were estimated around $5,000, so he decided to file a claim against the city. Months later, he got a letter stating that the city was “legally immune under the facts of your claim, therefore your claim is denied.”

“What do you mean you’re immune?” Herrera said.

A state statute grants the city immunity from some tort claims, in this case because there was snow or ice on the road.

“If I’m parked, it’s a parked vehicle, and he runs into my vehicle, why are they not responsible?” Herrera said. “That just doesn’t make any sense to me.”

The letter gave Herrera the option of disputing the claim in court, but he worries hiring an attorney would put an even bigger dent in his wallet then the ones on the side of his van.

“If you got a driveway, put it in there because if the city hits it, you’re not covered,” he said.

Herrera, a handyman, fixed the mirror himself for about $60. The two new tires costs him about $300.

Jeff Wagner

  1. The City is wrong. The attorney is being TACTICAL not legal because he knows that hiring a lawyer is unlikely for a claim this small.

    The claim is for BAD DRIVING by the city employee. What he statute blocks claims that an ice ridge on the road, a natural hazard, wasn’t removed “as promised” and your car sideswiped a road sign or a city vehicle sideswiped your car irrespective of bad driving. The key is the word “based on” in Section. Herrera’s claim is based on injury caused by bad driving not snow.

    It is unlikely that the Legislature intended provide BLANKET immunity for every city employee every other day during the winter. On Monday there is no snow and truck hits car because of the employee’s BAD driving — liability. On Wednesday there is slight coating of frozen water vapor of snow and MAGICALLY the employee driver is immune for the identical BAD driving??? I doubt it.

    The protection is from frivolous lawsuits based on injury caused by conditions created by NATURE (which can’t be sued) not those based on damages caused by the negligent ACTS of city employees.