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City of Charlotte fixes huge lip in sidewalk, denies woman’s claim after she was injured from fall

WBTV Investigates how the city can dodge liability while admitting there’s a problem
Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 4:43 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A Charlotte woman suffered terrible injuries after tripping and falling on a city sidewalk.

Even though crews fixed the sidewalk lip that caused the fall, her claim against the city was denied, leaving her struggling to pay thousands in medical bills.

Rene Poole told WBTV she was going to meet up with friends at an apartment in South End.

It was dark, she couldn’t see and the next thing she knew she tripped over a lip on the sidewalk.

Poole suffered terrible injuries after falling on a Charlotte sidewalk.

“And the next thing I knew, my teeth were hitting the concrete,” Poole told WBTV.

Poole never made it back to the party she was going to at the Silos South End Apartments.

The lip on the sidewalk caught her foot and sent her tumbling down.

“So, I was sitting on the ground and two people came by and they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, can we help you? We need to call the ambulance,’” Poole said.

Poole eventually went to the hospital with her sister and learned just how bad her injuries were.

“The arm has three broken bones,” Poole said. “They couldn’t cast it because of the location of the break.”

As bills started piling up Poole, reached out to Silos about the fall, thinking the sidewalk was their property.

However, after weeks of working with an adjuster, she was surprised to learn the sidewalk was the property of the City of Charlotte.

“They said that the sidewalk supposedly was owned by the city,” Poole said.

The city of Charlotte records acquired by WBTV show Poole reached out to the city and a repair ticket was placed for that part of the sidewalk.

She met with a city employee and recorded their interaction.

“This should have been done yesterday not today,” the City of Charlotte employee told her.

WBTV Investigates
WBTV Investigates(WBTV)

Poole’s claim went to the city’s Risk Management Office and was investigated by an outside contractor called Preferred Solutions.

But Poole said when she told the investigator she had already walked that section of the sidewalk earlier in the day, they shut down her case.

She received a voicemail from a Preferred Solutions employee.

“So you were able to navigate the sidewalk without any issues,” the voicemail said. “My determination at this point is I cannot find any liability on the part of the City of Charlotte.”

“The sidewalk was fixed in two days, so obviously that admits guilt in my opinion,” Poole said.

Video shows the sidewalk was clearly leveled off and one of the repair tickets said the sidewalk is wedged and needs to grined.

But another repair ticket curiously noted “cannot find any trip hazard” after the work order said the project was completed on Sept 2.

WBTV reached out to the City of Charlotte about the contradictions in the repair tickets and to ask why Poole’s claim was denied if the sidewalk was indeed repaired.

“With regard to the general claims process, because we are stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars, we cannot pay claims unless the City is liable for the damages incurred by the claimant,” a city spokesperson wrote in an email.

“Generally, when the City evaluates a claim, it looks to see if there is a hazard, and, if so, whether the City was aware of the hazard before the claimant was injured. If there is no hazard, or the City was unaware of the hazard prior to the injury, the City is not responsible and we are unable to pay the claim. The law is the same for any property owner and the City is no different.”

“I really don’t appreciate the antics of insurance companies trying to distort reality and the truth which they do often,” Poole said. “And it’s wrong, so I want them to right the wrong.”

WBTV Investigates
WBTV Investigates(WBTV)

WBTV Investigates also asked City of Charlotte officials for details on risk management office claims to see if people in Poole’s situation are successful in filing these claims.

We’re still waiting on those records.

The city of Charlotte sent WBTV this statement:

“With regard to the general claims process, because we are stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars, we cannot pay claims unless the City is liable for the damages incurred by the claimant. Generally, when the City evaluates a claim, it looks to see if there is a hazard, and, if so, whether the City was aware of the hazard before the claimant was injured. If there is no hazard, or the City was unaware of the hazard prior to the injury, the City is not responsible and we are unable to pay the claim. The law is the same for any property owner and the City is no different.”

If you have been in a similar situation make sure to reach out to us at investigates@wbtv.com.

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