LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Citing a contract with the Texas Department of Transportation, an insurance company representing Clark Construction is denying claims from damages incurred when the tar melted on the Lufkin loop on Aug. 31.
Those who have filed claims have reached out to KTRE and provided a letter from Gallagher Bassett Services, Inc., who is representing Old Republic General Insurance Corp., which insures Clark Construction.
"Somewhere there's something wrong with the system that will allow a situation like this to occur and everybody is out of money to repair the vehicles that are damaged but nobody is liable for it," said Ronnie Burns, one of the residents who filed a claim to Clark Construction.
"…We regret to advise you that we are denying your claim. Clark Construction's work on Loop 287 was pursuant to a contract with the Texas Department of Transportation ("TXDOT"). Section 97.002 of the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code states the following: 'A contractor who constructs or repairs a highway, road, or street for the Texas Department of Transportation is not liable to a claiman … property damage… from the performance of the construction or repair if, at the time of the … property damage … the contractor is in compliance with contract documents material to the condition or defect that was the proximate cause of the … property damage…'"
The letter goes on to state that TxDOT inspected Clark's work and enforced TxDOT requirements.
"At the time of the loss, Clark Construction was in compliance with all of the requirements in its contract documents with TxDOT that were material to the condition of the roadway involved in the loss."
TxDOT was forced to close the east side of Loop 287 on Aug. 31 after melted tar began sticking to drivers' tires. According to TxDOT spokeswoman Rhonda Oaks, rain from Tropical Storm Harvey kept the sealing of the road from drying properly. On that Thursday, the seal melted when the sun came up and began sticking to the tires.
TxDOT shut down the road, but not before hundreds of drivers had found their vehicles nearly undriveable. About 600 people have filed damage claims with TxDOT.
As for Burns, he's left with more questions than answers, all the while wanting someone to take responsibility.
KTRE reached out to TxDOT for a comment. The agency said, the company met all qualifications as a TxDOT contractor and was complying with their contract document requirements at the time of the event.