Aspen woman sues Roaring Fork Transportation Authority
An Aspen woman has taken the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority to court over a bus that collided with a parked car she had leased.
Trishka Lemos brought forth the small-claims action late last month in Pitkin County’s court system. Her suit seeks $7,500.
The complaint arose from a Nov. 17 incident in which a RFTA bus struck a 2011 Subaru Outback. Lemos had parked the car in front of her Burlingame affordable-housing unit. She was asleep at the time.
“In the morning I came down to drive my car to work and was affronted by crushed metal, doors that would not open/close, rear lights smashed and a dangling bumper that was rubbing against the driver’s side back left tire; just shy of $10,000 worth of damage,” Lemos wrote in a March 23-dated letter to RFTA.
Both Lemos and RFTA attorney Paul Taddune said RFTA paid nearly $10,000 to the company that leased out the vehicle.
But Lemos contends there was more damage than just to the car. As a single mother, Lemos said she had to scramble to make arrangements for her two children in the aftermath of the accident. She said she had to pay for taxi service to work and for travel to Denver to get another leased car, as well as losing time at work. Those expenses, along with gas, added up to a little more than $1,000, her suit says.
Her biggest claim, for $6,465, however, is for the leased car that she had planned to buy.
“My vehicle was a lease purchase that was about to end with a buyout of $17,748.15,” her letter said. “Prior to the accident I had considered buying and selling my car, which was in excellent condition, for the fair market value of $24,214.00. However, as a result of the depreciation due to the damage that your driver caused, that option no longer remained for me.”
Taddune called the suit a “unique kind of situation” because Lemos didn’t own the car. RFTA’s claims adjuster isn’t yet willing to pay for the damages of potential lost profit, Taddune said,
“RFTA can’t pay what she wants until it’s demonstrated she’s entitled to it,” he said. “And sometimes, the courts are the best way to adjudicate these type of issues. But you can’t use the public’s money to pay off claims that can’t be demonstrated.”
Lemos said now that she can’t buy and sell the vehicle, she is losing out on a profit opportunity. She said she also filed the suit to make a statement.
“Part of the reason I’m pursuing this is for accountability,” she said. “Maybe this driver needed a little more training.”
The Burlingame neighborhood also could have been endangered, she said.
“The scary thing is that Burlingame is a neighborhood where children are running around and kids are all over the place,” she said. “We’re lucky it happened when it did.”
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Officer Haley Walker sat beside her stepmother in a windowless interrogation room just before starting the overnight shift on Thursday evening.