OMAHA (NEB.) — Shelby Shull and MiaRose Lawrence are both students. They both hit potholes and filed claims against the city.
“I live and work off of financial loans and student loans,” said Shull.
“I live paycheck to paycheck. This was an expense I was not ready for,” said Lawrence.
They were also both denied because their parents’ names are on their car titles.
“I’ve probably lived in five different places since I graduated high school. It just never made sense for us to put in a bunch of time and effort into switching names over to all of the documentation, especially when my permanent address has always been that address,” said Shull.
In addition to people like Shull, who has the same last name as her parents, married couples were denied as well if their significant other was on the title instead.
“This is taxpayer dollars. This is Omaha taxpayer dollars that we are paying these claims, and we better be careful with how we are investigating and paying those out,” said Mayor Jean Stothert.
City officials say the owner listed on the title must file the claim because of fraud concerns, but nothing on the city’s website or in the mayor’s press release stated the actual owner of the vehicle had to file the claim. It wasn’t until several weeks after people like Lawrence and Shull filed their claims they received a letter back requesting a copy of their registration or title.
While Shull and Lawrence were denied payment for the same reason, the city’s claims department didn’t tell Lawrence that was the issue. Instead, Lawrence received a denial letter stating the city was not giving a reasonable amount of time to fix the pothole.
After finding several reports of potholes in the city’s database prior to Lawrence’s incident, 3 News Now emailed Assistant City Attorney Jeff Bloom. Bloom responded, “The date of notice was not determinative with this claim as the claimant was not the owner of the vehicle and not the real party of interest.”
"Here's the thing. Whenever we send a letter out, it's, we don't necessarily put out all of the reasons as far as on the reasons we denied the claim," said Bloom in an interview with 3 News Now.
When 3 News Now asked Bloom why Lawrence’s denial letter did not mention anything involving an issue of ownership, Bloom responded, “Unfortunately, we are not going to be able to address any more questions in regard to individual pothole claims.”
Lawrence said she was shocked to learn the city denied her claim because of her title.
“They lied. I mean they didn’t ask for any additional information and that’s something they should have done instead of denying me,” said Lawrence.
The most common reason the city listed in its denial letters is the same reason Lawrence was given in her original denial letter, the city was not given a reasonable amount of time to respond to the reported pothole.
If you received a denial letter stating the city was not given a reasonable amount of time to respond to the pothole you hit click here to see if a pothole was reported before your incident and how long it took the city to fix it.