Ohio's worst pothole: $6,000 damage to one car

Middletown man fighting state for reimbursement

A Middletown, Ohio man believes he may have hit Ohio's worst pothole after having to pay $6,000 to fix the damage caused to his car.

But he says the worst part is that no one will take responsibility for what happened on a major interstate highway.

No warning, big hit

There's no visible damage on Chris Runnels' Lexus of what happened when he hit a pothole a few months ago on Interstate 71 near Wilmington, Ohio.

He ran over a 5-foot-long pothole, one of the worst he had ever experienced, with no visual warning that it was coming up. And within seconds of hitting it, he says, "My car sounded like a metal trash can filled with bolts, with every bump you hit."

The dealer's diagnosis? His electronic air shocks were blown.

"All four of the air shocks or struts were blown. All four of those had to be replaced, for a cost of $5,818 -- a hard number to forget," he said.

Taking a hit of nearly six grand, Runnels collected his receipts and photos of the giant pothole. He submitted it all to the Ohio Department of Transportation, asking for reimbursement due to negligence.

Can you get reimbursed?

When it comes to pothole claims, most cities and states have similar laws.

If the pothole just popped up, it is considered an act of God -- and no one is responsible. But if it had been reported before, then the state or municipality is responsible for any damage it causes.

"This is the pothole," he said, pointing to a photo he had taken on I-71. "You can clearly see it had been repaired before, once along the center berm."

Runnels says since it had obviously been fixed once, the state DOT knew about it.

So he wasn't expecting a rejection letter -- from the Ohio Court of Claims -- saying road crews had no way of knowing their patch had failed. The state said it was not responsible, as the patch failure was an act of God, Runnels says.

We contacted the Court of Claims, where a spokesman said the court's ruling is final, and that there is no higher appeals process other than trying the Ohio Supreme Court.

But Runnels is not giving up. He has set up a Facebook group, "ODOT owes me money," and says he will go to the State Supreme Court if he needs to.

He says even if it costs him several thousand in legal fees, at this point it is a matter of principal to him.

If you hit a pothole, take detailed notes, take photos of the pothole and any damage, and keep all records. Then submit them to the city, county or state where it happened....and cross your fingers.

As always, don't waste your money.

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