Homeowner Fights City of Dallas Over Damage From a Flaming Garbage Truck

City tells her it is immune from liability

NBCUniversal, Inc.

A fiery accident involving a Dallas sanitation truck is the subject of a fight between a homeowner and City Hall.

Lynn Peltier said the accident happened July 14 in the alley behind her home.  She took pictures of the fire and the damage afterward to her gate, her fence, her backyard landscaping and sprinkler system.

“The sanitation contact that was on site that day instructed me to get three proposals on damage that occurred on my property, and that I was to get that to the city, that there would be no investigation needed, that it was obvious that the sanitation truck caused the damage to my property,” Peltier said.

She said she submitted the estimates to Dallas Risk Management and a person there agreed she was to receive $23,864.33.

But then a person in the Dallas City Attorney’s Office said there would be no payment because the city is immune from liability.

“I’ve been a citizen of the city of Dallas for 30 years. I pay my property taxes. I’m involved in the community. I tried to reach out to my councilman for assistance on this,” she said.

Her councilman Adam McGough replied to a request for comment from NBC 5 with a text message.

“My office immediately began advocating for resolution for this issue, and I have personally advocated to city staff and our city attorney that the city address this issue and compensate this resident for the loss. I am being told the same thing as Ms. Peltier from the city attorney’s office, and I have expressed my concern and disagreement to the city attorney. I hope this issue can be resolved sooner rather than later,” McGough said.

The fire evidently started in the hydraulic lift equipment on the truck that hoists trash bins up to be emptied. 

NBC 5 has recorded video of past failures with this portion of automated trucks.  Officials said before it is equipment that is prone to repair problems on older vehicles.

The City of Dallas has struggled to keep older sanitation equipment on the road in recent years. 

The truck involved in this case is a 2009 model.

Peltier said she has requested the fire report and maintenance history for that sanitation truck, but the city has not provided them to her.

NBC 5 contacted independent attorney James Roberts from the Scott Palmer Law Firm.

“I do think the city should be paying her,” Roberts said.

The attorney said an exclusion to immunity for the city would be if an employee operated a motor vehicle or equipment in a negligent manner.

Roberts said he believes these facts amount to negligence.

“The employee and the city have a duty to maintain the equipment in a safe manner, so it does not catch fire and explode and damage citizen's property,” Roberts said.

The city of Dallas Public Affairs Office did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

The Sanitation Department has pushed for years to expand the use of automated trucks like the one involved in this case. They are less expensive to operate because fewer workers are required. But they have trouble operating in smaller alleys, so the Sanitation Department has also suggested a switch to curbside collection instead of alleys. 

A presentation to the Dallas City Council on that change was made last month.

“I don't agree with that at all. I would like to maintain alley pick up, but on trucks that have been maintained,” Peltier said.

And she said she also wants to be paid for the damage one flaming truck did to her property.

Contact Us