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Philly Worker Says City Ignored Brake Failure Warnings

October 12, 2005

A civil complaint filed in Philadelphia states that the city allowed a child welfare worker to drive a van in its fleet despite multiple written complaints from previous drivers that the vehicle had faulty brakes, according to an October 11 report in the Philadelphia Weekly. According to the complaint, Department of Human Services (DHS) social worker Dawn George was driving a city-owned 1999 Dodge Caravan when its brakes completely failed, the Weekly report states. After careening through traffic for four blocks, George ultimately crashed at an intersection, critically injuring another driver and totaling both vehicles.George, who was subsequently charged with aggravated assault, is suing the investigating police officer for false arrest. A day prior to George's March 25, 2003, accident, two other DHS social workers submitted a written complaint about the van to the agency's Transportation Unit. The workers had a child riding along with them at the time, according to the Philadelphia Weekly report. Regardless, the Transportation Unit signed out the van to George the following day. On her way back to the office, George started to fill out the standard pool car form, noting that the brakes were faulty. Soon after, she says the brakes failed and she had the accident.On June 10, 2003--nearly three months after the accident--Philadelphia police officer Terry Wallace issued a warrant for George's arrest. The warrant included charges of aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, simple assault, criminal mischief and accidents causing serious bodily injury. After a criminal hearing those charges were later dismissed. However, during the criminal hearing, Wallace testified that after reviewing documents, he determined Fleet Management had repaired the van's brake pedal less than 24 hours before the accident. He said it was in "good condition." Wallace also testified that George had made "a controlled move" and stepped on the gas pedal.George is asking for $375,000 in damages from the city. But she says what she truly wants is for the city to take dangerous cars out of its fleet, she said in the Weekly report.Philadelphia city government owns more than 6,000 vehicles, including garbage trucks, police cars and tow trucks.
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