Chicago’s failure to repair a crumbling downtown viaduct – despite a “task order” generated by a call to 311 – will cost taxpayers $450,000.
The City Council’s Finance Committee on Monday approved a $450,000 settlement to compensate a pregnant woman and her husband injured when the roof and front windshield of their car were smashed by a 50-lb. chunk of concrete that fell from a viaduct in 2007.
Shelly Davis, her husband, Omar McRoberts, and the couple’s three-year-old daughter were stopped at a traffic signal located on the “middle deck of a three-level structure at the intersection of East South Water Drive and North Columbus Drive,” according to First Deputy Corporation Counsel Leslie Darling.
“The couple claims that the city negligently failed to maintain the viaduct and knew of its defective condition. Past independent bridge inspection reports indicated that loose concrete needed to be removed from the underside of the upper deck,” Darling told the Finance Committee.
“In addition, on August 29, 2007, approximately five months before the accident, a 311 call was placed by a driver who complained that concrete had fallen onto the car at the same location. The 311 system issued a task order. But, there are no records indicating that repairs were conducted prior to the incident in question.”
Davis, who was 18 weeks pregnant at the time, suffered a “crushing knee injury” as a result of the falling concrete, but was forced to put off medical care until after the birth of her child, Darling said. McRoberts suffered injuries to his right hand. Their daughter was not injured.
Patricia Bobb, an attorney representing the couple, said there is no excuse for the city’s inaction.
“Concrete fell before this. You can see it’s deteriorated. If they had carefully inspected it and paid attention to prior complaints, there are steps they could have taken. … What they should have done is shore up the infrastructure. You can do, like a brace to keep it from falling,” Bobb said, noting that the city admitted liability in the case.
“The city’s position is that there’s crumbling infrastructure everywhere in the city, and it’s hard for them to keep up. From our perspective, if the city had knowledge of a dangerous or potentially dangerous condition, then there are measures they can take short of totally replacing the infrastructure. In this case, they just didn’t do anything.”
The settlement stemming from the lost 311 “task order” follows Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to upgrade the non-emergency number to keep city crews on their toes.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that Emanuel wants to give 311 callers a “tracking number” to chart their requests for city services, just like the number FedEx customers get to track the path of packages they send.
“It will help me help you hold the departments accountable. … Nobody can say, ‘I can’t find your request.’ They can’t hide and say, ‘We don’t see it. Fill out the request form again.’ No way. Here’s my number,” the mayor told the Sun-Times.
“When you call right now and say a tree needs trimming or a tree came down, it goes into the bowels of the bureaucracy. … Do you know where it sits in the system? No. Then, you’ve got to call the alderman after you’ve called 311 [and say], ‘I’ve called this in. Can you please get somebody out here?’ And the alderman’s got to call. No. We’re gonna give you a tracking number. It allows you to track the system online. Then, we will notify you when we’re coming out and, once we execute the public service, we will email you back or call you back saying the work has now been completed.”