Exclusive: New York City rejects couple's request to pay for car totaled during NYPD pursuit

Kristin Thorne Image
Saturday, February 10, 2024
Exclusive: Couple says car was totaled by NYPD vehicle
7 On Your Side Investigates reporter Kristin Thorne has more on the investigation.

BROOKLYN, New York (WABC) -- A couple in Brooklyn is fighting to get New York City to do the right thing - to pay for their car that was totaled during a NYPD high-speed pursuit. The Comptroller's Office said the city is not legally responsible for the damage.

"It's difficult to put into words how angry I am," Adam Rizer told 7 On Your Side Investigates reporter Kristin Thorne.

On November 10 around 10:30 p.m., an undercover police officer was pursuing a suspected stolen vehicle traveling on Central Avenue in Bushwick. Surveillance video obtained by Eyewitness News shows the undercover vehicle with its flashing lights fly through an intersection T-boning one car and then colliding with Rizer's 2021 Jeep which was parked outside their apartment on Central Avenue. Videos and pictures from the scene also show the police vehicle smashed right up against the Rizer's car.

"The police car had enough momentum to smash into my car so hard that it lifted onto the sidewalk," Rizer said.

Pictures from the scene show the unmarked police car - a black sedan - slammed up against the Rizer's gray Jeep Renegade.

A few hours later, the NYPD towed Rizer's car to an auto body in Williamsburg.

When Rizer and his wife, Elizabeth Rizer, contacted the city to inquire about payment for damages to their car, they were told they would have to file a claim with the Comptroller and pay for their own inspector to inspect the vehicle at the auto body. The Rizer's spent nearly $200 hiring an inspector. The inspector confirmed the vehicle is a total loss.

The Rizers' car insurance will not cover the damages to the car because the couple only had liability coverage, not collision. Adam Rizer said a few months before the accident they switched to liability coverage because they could no longer afford collision.

The Rizers obtained an NYPD police report, which states the undercover vehicle struck their car.

In the report, which Eyewitness News reviewed, the police car is referred to as Vehicle 1, the car that the police T-boned is referred to as Vehicle 2 and the Rizers' car is referred to as Vehicle 3.

The report states, "While following a possible stolen vehicle, Vehicle 1 did collide into Vehicle 2. Vehicle 1 did then collide into Vehicles 3 and 4."

Vehicle 4 was also parked on Central Avenue.

After weeks of going back and forth with the city Comptroller's Office - providing the office with the surveillance video of the accident, the pictures and videos of the police car smashed into theirs and the NYPD police report - the city informed the couple it was not going to pay for the damage to their vehicle because the city was not "legally responsible."

The city wrote in a letter to the couple on January 24, "In reference to the above captioned claim, please be advised that our investigation reveals that a third party may be responsible for your loss or injury."

The letter then referred the couple to Hertz LLC.

Elizabeth Rizer followed up with an email to the city Comptroller's Office asking for clarification on the third party and why the city was referring them to Hertz.

The case worker responded in an email, "Hertz is named as the party striking your vehicle in the police report."

According to the NYPD police report obtained by the Rizers, Vehicle 2 - the car that the undercover vehicle T-boned - was a rental car with Hertz. However, the report makes no mention of that car - Vehicle 2 - hitting the Rizer's. The only car that is mentioned as colliding with the Rizers' is Vehicle 1 - the police car.

"They're saying that what happened didn't happen," Adam Rizer said. "It's the craziest thing."

Elizabeth Rizer took video at the scene of the damage to her Jeep. The unmarked black police sedan is shown right up against her Jeep.

The city is also refusing to pay back the Rizers $200 for the tow for their car, which was done by the NYPD, as well as the $2,787 which the Rizer's owe in storage fees to the auto body.

"These costs are they're wiping us out," Elizabeth Rizer said. "They've wiped us out."

The costs don't include the money the Rizers have spent on rental cars and Ubers to get to doctor's appointments, the grocery store and to visit family in Connecticut.

Eyewitness News reached out to the Comptroller's Office about the Rizers claim, but the office said they can't comment on claims made against the city.

Eyewitness News investigative reporter Kristin Thorne also requested an interview with Comptroller Brad Lander to go over the Rizer's claim, but his office declined.

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