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Ohio couple deals with $30,000 damage to house due to high-speed police chase

Couple reports city won't help with repair costs
CLE couple deals with $30K in home damage due to police chase
Posted at 4:29 PM, Oct 27, 2021

CLEVELAND — Barbara Fulker and James Gavin of Cleveland feel lucky to be alive. After a suspect van plowed into their home during a Cleveland police chase in July 2019, the couple is now left with $30,000 in repairs.

The senior couple told News 5 they live on a fixed income and couldn't afford homeowners insurance.

So far, the City of Cleveland has told them it's not responsible for helping with repair costs due to "sovereign immunity," which absolves the city of liability in situations involving emergency services like police, fire, or EMS.

To make matters worse, the couple said four months after the accident, the city issued them a citation, fine, and court hearing for the unfinished repairs.

CLE couple deals with $30K in home damage due to police chase
CLE couple deals with $30K in home damage due to police chase

The couple said too often they're forced to use a narrow wooden ramp to get into their home.

“It was a van speeding, and they lost control of the van and ran into the house and the steps," Fulker said. “I was very scared and very shocked. I really couldn’t believe it.”

“I called several times, and I left so many messages, never got a callback, they won't help us."

“I told them we couldn’t afford to have this fixed, especially not in 30 days. We don’t have that kind of money. We still don’t have it.”

Fulker has now challenged the candidates for the vacant Ward 4 Cleveland city council seat to help them find a solution.

Candidate Deborah Gray told WEWS if she's elected, she'll propose legislation that could grant repair assistance to homeowners dealing with police chase-related property damage by amending what can be covered by the Cleveland Moral Claims Commission.

While candidate Erick Walker told WEWS if he is elected in November, he'll explore a city-based homeowners insurance assistance program for qualifying low-income families and seniors on a fixed income, which could help with these types of damage claims.

News 5 also reached out to the Cleveland Mayor's office about this case, and it responded immediately. The city said it'd contacted several city departments to see if anything could be done to help the couple repair their home.

Joe Pagonakis at WEWS first reported this story.