PHILADELPHIA - We can all agree it's never a good time when your car gets smashed while parked out on the street.
But it's even worse when the responsible party leaves a note, then refuses to pay up – at least until FOX 29 Investigates gets involved. Jeff Cole has this report.
Walking out to her car, ready for work one Fall morning, Amber Lutz made one of those dreaded, day-altering discoveries on a crowded, one-way South Philly street.
"I walked back around to my car and I saw that this whole side was dented in, my door and the back panel over here," Lutz said, demonstrating as she walked around her vehicle. "So I needed to get my entire door and that panel replaced."
Fortunately, something was on her windshield.
"What did the form have on it?" Cole asked.
"The form had the actual vehicle number for the city truck or car that hit ... my car," Lutz said.
That's right, the city employee who hit her car parked on Morris Street left a note.
Lutz contacted the city, police and her insurer, got a $4,500 damage estimate and paid her deductible.
She went without her Ford Focus for two weeks of repairs.
"I actually had to wait 45 days until my case was even put into the system," Lutz said. "So I called back in February, and no one got back to me for another month. I sent multiple emails, calls, I left voicemails. And then finally I got on the phone with someone who told me that the city wasn't responsible."
An April letter from the city's claims adjuster suggested that she contact a contractor for "information regarding this case."
Lutz reached out, but the contractor – which we're not identifying – said it had no projects "in the vicinity," admitted to being "puzzled" and asked the city for "some kind of proof."
Cole: "So, the city says, 'Not us,' and the contractor says 'Not us.'"
Cole: "So, you were left high and dry here."
Lutz: "I was left high and dry. My car had already been fixed, I put the thousand dollars out, I thought, 'Oh, I'm just going to shake this up for a loss,' and then I thought, 'No, you know, I deserve my money back, I didn't do anything wrong.'"
She asked the city to take another look, but the adjuster said in April that, based on his investigation, "the City of Philadelphia is not responsible for your damages."
After what she called "rude and terrible treatment" from the Claims Unit in the Philadelphia Finance Department's Risk Management Division, Lutz turned to FOX 29 Investigates.
"I'm getting married in November, and that thousand bucks is going to really going to come in handy for a bunch of different things that my fiancé and I are planning for our wedding," Lutz said.
What did we learn about that note on her car? It's a Streets Department form, the employee number refers to the local district, and a list we found online – when the city sought to advertise on vehicles – shows the truck's year, make and model.
We called and left a voicemail message for adjuster Gregory Head.
Less than 24 hours later, city spokesman Mike Dunn told us they will, in fact, pay Lutz's claim. Little explanation was offered, other than the initial response was in error.
"If it wasn't for your team reaching out to the city, they would have never reimbursed me my money, I know for sure," Lutz said. "Because they were trying to give me the runaround and almost bully me into not following up with them."
Amber Lutz has received and sent back a legal release. She anticipates receiving soon that $1,000 check from the city, which she'll be putting toward wedding expenses, Cole reported.