Bending buses + valuable violas = very bad vibes
Updated: October 19, 2012 10:35AM
Dear Fixer: On April 29, I was riding the No. 6 bus from Hyde Park to downtown with two colleagues.
We are musicians. We were on our way to a conference, with our violas in tow. We were in the middle part of the articulated bus.
As we neared downtown, someone needed to get by, so I lifted my instrument to the side to let them pass. Just then, we went around a corner and the turntable on which we were seated started to move. I felt the side of the bus touch my arm, which was around my instrument’s case. My arm and the instrument were clamped between the side of the bus and the armrest.
I made a noise, and my colleagues looked over just as I freed my arm. Within seconds we heard snapping of wood — crunching, splintering, gut-wrenching sounds.
The driver announced that the bus had been rerouted; we had to get off. We ran off the bus, opened the case and discovered that the bus clamping down on the case had forced the bridge through the face of the instrument, leaving long, deep cracks from top to bottom.
The bus drove away. People ran over to see what was happening, as I was sobbing. It was a Sunday and no repair shops were open, so we went to our conference, hopeful that someone might know what to do.
The next day I made my first call to the CTA claims department. The day after that I called again. Several days later, I received a call back, and a very nice man said I would be hearing from them later that week. Meanwhile, I left my instrument with a repair shop.
Several weeks later, after I was back home in San Francisco, I received some documents to fill out and return to the CTA. My viola was worth $15,000. Repairs and restoration were projected at $3,500 to $6,000, and post-repair it will depreciate 20 percent, to a total value of $12,000.
In my claim I asked for a fair total of $6,500 to $9,000, depending on the actual cost of repairs, but I also made note of all the extra expenses I incurred. I submitted this in late June.
On Aug. 10, their claims rep told me I was being offered $1,500. I was too upset to speak with him.
Then a letter was delivered to my home, dated Aug. 10. It said that the offer was only good for 10 days from the date on the letter. It was postmarked Aug. 14 and arrived Aug. 16.
CTA tells me there is no way for them to know the incident actually happened. How could they, when they never even bothered to contact my witnesses?
Dear Katharine: Now we can add this to the things we’ve learned from writing this column: Never lift a viola on the bendy part of an articulated bus.
We took this to CTA spokesman Brian Steele, who said he’s never heard of an instrument getting crushed in a bus. (You told us that you just heard from a local violist who also had her instrument caught in a bus.)
We were able to get the settlement offer extended for 50 additional days, as we went back and forth with the transit agency. They claimed you should have notified the driver before the bus drove away, rather than getting off the rerouted bus and then opening the case. They said they didn’t need to call your witnesses, as the written statements were sufficient.
They say they weren’t negligent; you say they were and that they blew you off.
Bottom line: CTA refuses to increase their offer. You’ve hired a lawyer and plan to file in court.