Frustrations mount over property damage involving municipal vehicle

Truck damaged by rocks. (Photos courtesy of Brandon Fitch).

A summertime cruise down Highway 2 in Chatham-Kent this past summer has lead to a lot of frustration for a Windsor resident after some rocks flung up by a municipal vehicle hit his truck.

Brandon Fitch said he was driving his 2019 Ram 2500 Laramie in late July when the incident happened.

“I was driving down the roadway and I had something blasted at me basically. There is nothing I could have done to avoid this. This was not my fault,” said Fitch.

After Fitch contacted the municipality and filed the proper paperwork, he said he was basically left with one option, which didn’t exactly suit him.

“They’re looking for me to go through my insurance company and I’m not interested in doing that because it’s a cosmetic repair but that doesn’t really count when it comes time to sell a vehicle. A claim is a claim,” he said.

A quote to repair Fitch’s truck by a repair shop in Windsor was $2,096. Fitch said he hoped to have the Municipality of Chatham-Kent pay the repair shop directly instead of having to go through his insurance company but now feels like he’s out of options.

“They have kind of been straight forward in the fact that that’s their final offer,” he said.

Chatham-Kent Solicitor Emily S. Crawford said the matter involving Fitch was initially reviewed by a claims investigator and then further reviewed by a municipal lawyer to determine whether or not a different decision would be appropriate. In this case, the municipality reached a final position and relayed that back to Fitch.

“We acknowledge that Mr. Fitch had experienced significant inconvenience and so an assessment was made to offer him a low amount to resolve the matter without further time and expense being incurred by either Mr. Fitch or the municipality,” said Crawford. “With respect to whether or not Mr. Fitch wanted us to pay an insured amount or whether or not he wanted to pursue an amount through his insurance, that would be his prerogative, but that doesn’t factor into the municipality’s analysis which is focused strictly on whether or not we’re liable to pay.”

Fitch said another concern brought up during the incident was how it could have affected someone else. He said the rocks almost went through the door panel of his large truck and could have easily done more damage to a smaller vehicle.

“If that had been a small passenger car that would have went clear through the window,” he said. “I think it’s being belittled where it’s like ‘oh, it’s fine’ but it could have not been fine. Heaven forbid, that could have been someone on a motorcycle.”

Fitch claimed the municipality used the wrong piece of machinery for the task when the incident occurred.

“It was the wrong machine to be using for that application,” said Fitch. “Typically in Ontario, we use articulating arms on the back of a backhoe or a tractor with a large PTO (Power Take-Off) arm on the back and they articulate and they’re able to move them up and down. That particular device that they were using is designed for cleaning out fields and flat areas, that’s not designed for inclines.”

However, Crawford said the municipal vehicle in question was checked as part of their investigation into the matter and Public Works confirmed that it is suitable for the work it was doing.

“Our investigation confirmed that the municipality acted in accordance with industry standards, that this machinery was not faulty, and that it is commonly and suitably used for this type of grass cutting and we had no other complaints concerning this mower or debris on the road beyond that date,” said Crawford.

Fitch sent a video to Blackburn News to show how the municipal vehicle operated at the time of the incident.