Homeowner wins damage suit over Naugatuck sidewalk

Dan Whitman, 50, of 92 Carroll St., sued the borough and D & P Construction of Bridgeport, claiming his stone retaining wall was damaged in 2008 when new sidewalks were installed on his street. He won $2,250 from Travelers Insurance, the carrier for D & P. - RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — After years of battling with the borough over his sidewalk, Dan Whitman finally won some money.

Whitman, 50, demanded reimbursement three years ago for the $4,100 he spent fixing the sidewalk in front of his 92 Carroll St. house in 1999, when officials told him it was his responsibility. Then the borough won a grant to replace all the sidewalks on his street, which leads to Central Avenue Elementary School.

Whitman said the borough’s contractor, D & P Construction of Bridgeport, damaged a retaining wall in front of his house in July 2008 when they came to tear up the sidewalk. He sued the borough and the construction company in April 2010, which resulted last month in a $2,250 settlement in Whitman’s favor.

The contract with D & P held the borough harmless for damages resulting from the project, so D & P’s insurance carrier, Travelers Insurance, handled the lawsuit and paid the settlement.

“It was a principle issue,” Whitman said. “It was not about the money… If I threw a stone wall through a town window, I know I’d be held accountable.”

Whitman, who initially sued for $5,000, said the settlement would not fully cover the cost of repairing the stone wall. Stones were shaken loose when contractors used an excavator and a jackhammer to tear up the sidewalk, Whitman said. A mason will now have to rebuild parts of the wall and refit some of the rocks, Whitman said.

Attorney Theodore M. Pappas, of the Law Offices of Charles G. Walker in Hartford, argued for Travelers Insurance that the stone wall had not been properly installed in the first place, without good foundations, footings or mortar, according to court documents.

Borough Attorney Edward G. Fitzpatrick said his firm charged the borough about $470 to look over documents related to the case.

Whitman said he does not plan to sue for the money he spent in 1999 repairing the sidewalk.

“I’m not going to kill myself over this,” he said. “I’d rather put my energies elsewhere, my monies elsewhere.”

Whitman asked then-Mayor Michael Bronko in 2008 for that money in a tax abatement, but the Board of Mayor and Burgesses voted it down. Mayor Robert A. Mezzo said he agreed with the decision.

“We do sidewalk projects when we have the funds, but it is the homeowner’s responsibility to maintain their sidewalks in residential areas,” Mezzo said. “He happened to do so. The timing was unfortunate.”

The borough recently replaced sidewalks on Cherry Street, Elm Street and Scott Street with a $500,000 federal American Recovery & Reinvestment grant, Public Works Director James Stewart said.