Local News

State Law Sticks Pittsboro Couple With Unexpected Repair Bill

Posted May 9, 2003 5:35 a.m. EDT

— If a sheriff's deputy hits your car, and it is not your fault, you are still stuck with the bill to fix the damage. A Pittsboro couple learned about that state law the hard way.

Last Wednesday in downtown Raleigh at the intersection of Blount Street and North Street, Barton and Sharon Holtz parked their car. When they came back from lunch, a Wake County sheriff's deputy had crashed into their car. The Holtzs claim the deputy struck another car and the collision sent the deputy's car into their vehicle.

"We opened up the car door and everything that had been on the dash and in the little pockets in the dash was now in the front seat," Barton Holtz said.

The crash bent the frame of the Holtzs' car. The total damage is estimated to be worth $1,500. However, when Barton Holtz called the county to file a claim, they denied the claim.

"Because of an North Carolina statute, Wake County does not have to have liability insurance for automobiles. I said I'm incredulous," Barton said.

North Carolina law protects public servants from liability when they are performing official duties. In this case, the deputy was on duty. The Holtzs, with a $500 deductible on their car insurance, are stuck with the bill.

"You could say we had a $525 lunch," Barton said.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison does not like the law, but he said his hands are tied.

"I'm not in favor of the way it works either. I think if we're at fault, we should pay but I don't have any choice in that," he said.

The state originally passed liability immunity to protect goverments from frivilous lawsuits. The Holtzs say their case is not frivolous, and they want everyone to know what could happen if the wrong person hits you.

The state and the city of Raleigh will pay liability claims if their employees are involved in an accident. They had special legislation passed to do so. Wake County employees were involved in 175 crashes with the public in the last fiscal year, of which 20 were disputed.