It’s Howard vs. the DOT after city refuses to pay for snow plow damage

Posted at 9:43 PM, May 15, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-14 17:23:27-04

I cannot believe this story.

I can’t believe the way the New York State Department of Transportation is treating Janelle Howard.  She’s a young woman from Long Island who had nightmare during the big blizzard we had on February 8th.  Janelle was driving home on the LIE when she couldn’t see out the windshield. So she pulled all the way over on the shoulder and got out to scrape. Here’s how she told me the story:

“I get out to de-ice and the wind shut my doors. My keys were locked in the ignition, car running, cell phone inside, my wallet, my purse, everything…” So there was a woman maybe about 50 feet ahead of me that had stopped to do the same thing.  So I ran to her really quick. I said I know this is gonna sound crazy but do you think I can use your phone?”

She called 9-1-1 but they were too busy. Janelle had to abandon her car and get a ride home.


When the skies finally cleared up, she called the police and found out her car had been hit by a New York State Department of Transportation plow.

Janelle’s car was a wreck…totaled.  It was a 1995 Infiniti  J-30 with a lot of miles. At most worth about $3,000.

Janelle’s Wrecked Car 1

A police officer saw the collision so Janelle did get a police report.  Then she called the state DOT to find out about reimbursement.

JANELLE:   “They told me they could neither confirm nor deny it was one of their vehicles.

HOWARD: Well that is a wonderful answer.

JANELL: Yeah.”

So Janelle contacted Help Me Howard and I got on her problem.  We made a pitch to the DOT and they told us they’d get back to us about reimbursement.  But that took 26 days!  And then the answer was a big “no.”

The DOT lawyers determined that they only have to pay if the plow driver is reckless. And there’s no evidence of that.

Janelle’s Wrecked Car 2

Janelle can’t afford to sue. Her car isn’t worth it. But she’s still accruing storage fees on the wreck.  And, the fees of $30 a day increased by $780 just because the DOT took its sweet time making a decision.

Meanwhile, here’s what NY DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald told the New York State Legislature at a budget hearing in January, “One of the outstanding attributes of the DOT is the agency’s ability to respond during times of need.”

Really, Commissioner? Janelle Howard is in need. Big time.  How about responding to her?  The State of New York has an annual budget of $135 billion. You can’t find a way to come up with a couple of thousand for her?   It’s just incredible.

For her part, Janelle is philosophical.  “Things happen. You have to start fresh,” she told me. “Life happens. But you don’t expect things like this to happen to you.”

Janelle Howard deserves better.  The New York State Department of Transportation should be ashamed.