Hawaii Kai man sues city after pothole damages new car

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A Hawaii Kai man is getting ready for a battle with the city in court over a pothole.

Donald Fehlmann is suing the city because he says it’s refusing to pay for damage to his car.

According to Fehlmann, the pothole was more than four-and-a half-feet long and three inches deep.

“This is the big kahuna or the mother of all potholes. I’ve never seen one like this,” Fehlmann said.

He hit it one evening in March while he was driving his brand new Tesla on Lunalilo Home Road.

“Felt like a mini crash,” Fehlmann said.

He said the side walls of two tires were slashed and one rim was damaged. With parts and labor, it cost nearly $2,000 to fix.

“Imagine you have a brand new car, two months old, 1,336 miles on it, and this happens,” Fehlmann said.

He filed a claim with the city, but was denied.

In a letter, the city said it was his low-profile tires and rims that were to blame. But a manager at Lex Brodie’s tells KHON2 the type and size of those parts shouldn’t matter.

“If you’re driving at any reasonable amount of speed and you hit a pothole, you can definitely do some damage to the tire,” said Michael Rizzo, manager at Lex Brodie’s.

The Hawaii Kai resident went to mediation with that expert opinion and was denied again. But he’s not backing down and is set to meet the city in court on Friday.

He says he has city documents that show another driver reported that same pothole to the city on March 11. His incident happened five days later on March 16. He says the city fixed the pothole on March 22

Fehlmann says the city should have found a temporary solution.

“They should have put some caution sign or cones or a metal place to cover it for unsuspecting drivers to know danger lies ahead,” Fehlmann said.

The Department of Facility Maintenance says it doesn’t have the manpower to do that and remains busy fixing between 800 and 2,500 potholes a week.

Earlier this year, Mayor Kirk Caldwell unveiled his plan to spend $100 million a year repaving Honolulu’s bumpy roads.

The city could not comment on this particular case since it’s still going through the legal system.

The city is encouraging people to report potholes as soon as they see it.

For more information on how to report a pothole, visit this website or call (808) 768-7777.

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