- woman whose car dropped into a 20-foot sinkhole and landed, still running, upside down in flowing sewage water wins a major settlement.
- firefighters rescued the driver in the february 2017 incident in los angeles.
- her attorney claims the city is at fault, but the settlement does not answer that question.
potholes cost money to fix, but sinkholes can be truly expensive. that’s the lesson los angeles learned this week as it settled a lawsuit over a 2017 case in which the road opened up under a driver, whose vehicle fell 20 feet below the road surface into open sewage, according to her suit. the los angeles city council voted this week to settle the case out of court for $4 million.
the sinkhole incident happened on laurel canyon boulevard in studio city in february 2017. the driver, stephanie scott, told first responders on the night of the incident that as she was driving, "she felt the car pitch to the left, then it tumbled into the sinkhole." she then found herself in rushing water with the car upside down, but she managed to climb to the top of her vehicle. firefighters were then able to rescue her using a ladder before a second vehicle, a minivan, also fell into the sinkhole as the news video above shows. she sued the city for "significant injuries, damages and losses" caused by the fall.
in case you're wondering why the van shown in the video and photo above didn't just drive away, a news report at the time quoted its owner as saying one of his tires had become stuck in the sinkhole. he tried to warn scott away from the area, but to make matters even worse, it was raining heavily and she didn't realize the danger in time.
scott’s attorney said in a statement that the sinkhole and accident were "all due to the gross negligence of the city," but not long after the incident happened, attorneys for the city denied allegations of negligence. the los angeles department of public works said at the time that the sinkhole "was probably caused by a combination of excessive rain and a possible sewer failure . . . there were no sewer overflows and all the wastewater was contained in the sewer pipe." the los angeles city attorney's office is declining to comment on the settlement.
sinkholes have a tendency to end up costing local governments and companies millions of dollars. a 2016 sinkhole that killed an off-duty police officer in san antonio, texas, resulted in her family settling for $12 million. a mining company in louisiana settled with residents who lived near a massive sinkhole that opened up there in 2012 for over $48 million in 2014.