Fort Worth Facing An ‘Act Of God’ Over Street Light

By Selena Hernandez, CBS 11 News

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The City of Fort Worth has found itself asking, ‘What would Jesus do?’ after one of the city’s street lights fell and damaged a man’s car.

Under Texas law, the city isn’t responsible for the damage. Rather, it’s considered an act of God.

“I just hear this bang, and the car shakes,” Greg Buetel recalled. “I looked in the rear-view mirror and there’s no one behind me and I notice in the street, there’s a huge street light.”

Greg Buetel’s story started an an intersection. A chance stop off 287 and North Tarrant Parkway last month, when he got a sudden jolt from above.

“It caved my trunk and my trunk had to be replaced,” Buetel said. “It also damaged my quarter panel.”

Buetel’s Hyundai Sonata suffered $2000 of damage from the unexpected falling light. Buetel contacted the City of Fort Worth, seeking compensation.

“I filed the claim and then I was told unless they are on sight causing the damage, the state protects them from any liability.”

“It’s an act of God,” Jason Lamers with the City of Fort Worth said.

“Unfortunately, it’s not a city employee that did something wrong or broke something with malice.”

An act of God is something Buetel is familiar with – he is, after all, the pastor of Light the World Church in Keller. Yet, the city’s “act” of not paying for his damage, is something Buetel is willing to forgive. But one he still finds upsetting.

“I don’t have any choice to drive those streets,” Buetel said. “I put confidence in the city that their workmanship doesn’t fall on my vehicle.”

“We need to follow state law,” Lamers said. “State law basically lays out the liability for cities like this, and that law is in place to protect tax payers.”

“In the end, I don’t question God when good things happen -so i don’t question when bad things happen. i just trust he’ll take care of me”

That light has yet to be fixed. The city says it’s looking into it.

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  • FedUpTxn

    God wasn’t responsible for the care and maintenance of this light, the City was. It’s not like it was knocked off during a storm. I’d be calling a lawyer or making a report to the state because this is a BS excuse!

    • JuliaB55

      Right on, FedUp Txn! But hey, the city needs to keep its taxpayer dollars to fund their workers’ fat pensions and other bennies, courtesy of…you!

  • Just Deb

    Wait a minute. Isn’t there some law about the separation of church and state?

    • Beard CEO

      Separation of church and state means that Obama cannot become the head of the Catholic church. You folks who literally think “separation” means something physical is funny.. same folks who gripe about “In God We Trust” as our nation’s motto but have yet to complain that it’s on your money

    • tomSERVO

      It’s just right after Charlie Rangel’s favorite, the good and plenty clause.

    • jake

      No. there isn’t.

    • Penchant

      No… there isn’t actually.

      • John Moser

        Jeez George can’t you read? I can only assume you are Californian and you enjoy fascism as much as your Governor.
        Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.
        That’s pretty clear. The federal govt. will not establish a chuch. Period. Non-simpletons do not require a Supreme Court to tell us that, what is stated in plain English, means something else entirely. BTW that doesn’t even apply to state and local governments.

      • Spanky

        viking said: “There isn’t a Separation of Church & State anywhere in the Constitution.”

        Sure there is.

        It’s just after the part that says illegal immigrants should be treated like citizens and before the part that says abortion is legal. It’s also in the same part that says the federal government can require citizens to buy health insurance.

      • Michael

        George, you’re an idiot, the supreme court was wrong then and it is now. Search your feelings…you know it to be true!

      • rjm2238

        The only word on this subject in the Constitution is the Establishment Clause in the first amendment. This prevents the government from establishing a national religion and requiring all to belong to it, ala the Church of England then and Islam in many places today.
        That is all it says, Jefferson’s mention of “Separation…” is not in the Constitution, it was a completely different correspondence made at a different time and addressed to different people for a different reason.
        Sorry folks but there is no separation expressly mentioned in the Constitution, and that is a natural fact.
        PS: I am not a religious guy, so I have no bone pick here, however I am fairly religious when it comes to the truth and my country.
        Rich in New Mexico.

      • Bob

        Jeez George, seriously?? I think your the one that needs to go back and read Everson v. Board of Education, because your the one that doesn’t get it right. I have to assume that you must be from someplace like San Francisco, or some other liberal bastion.

      • Bill Smith

        You are right, it’s not a law and neither is it in the Constitution. The Constitution forbids the Congress from making any laws promoting religion. A godless U.S Supreme court decided that governments cannot promote religion nor display religious symbols. The two things are not the same! The Constitution specifically aims the law at Congress and not the states.

        If there really is such a thing as a complete separation of state and religion, then this city is illegally using God as an excuse for avoiding paying for the damage its property caused. That light did not fall because God made it fall, and nobody in their right mind would believe it did. It fell due to wear and tear on the pole or the hardware that secured it to the pole. I’m sure a forensic investigation would show this to be the cause. The state needs to change the law but it won’t do this until somebody sues.

      • rob

        youre right its not a law… it is a constitutional requirement which is above the law

      • Brian

        Jeez Rob, seriously? A constitutional requirement? Above the law? Separation of church and state is an idea that was expressed by Thomas Jefferson in a letter written to a church. It’s not a “law” and its certainly not a “constitutional requirement” what ever you think that is.

      • viking

        There isn’t a Separation of Church & State anywhere in the Constitution.

      • Mike

        poor Rob, lack of basic high school education has robbed him of credibility. You have a computer, educate yourself since high school civics didn’t do it for you.

      • George Whitefield

        Yes… there is actually. It is called the First Amendment. Everson v. Board of Education, 1947, etc. All 9 Justices agreed with the “wall of separation between church and state” definition, and the court has held this definition ever since. This definition is older than the national motto ‘In God we trust,’ 1956, and older than ‘under God,’ 1954, being in the pledge.

      • George Whitefield

        Jeez Brian, seriously? lol you don’t know what you are talking about. I can only assume you are a Texan, and know as little about the Supreme Court as your governor. The Constitution, which you view so religiously, established the Supreme Court, and as outlined in the Federalist papers (by the Founders), have the power(responsibility) of judicial review. Through this process, the Court has been forced to interpret the meaning of the Establishment Clause, and has supported it’s definition unanimously ever since. You are wrong, The First Amendment is a “law” and the interpretation of it by the Court establishes it as a “constitutional requirement.”

      • George Whitefield

        You can’t argue “founders intent” while ignoring Jefferson’s intent. You can’t argue “its not in the Constitution” while arguing “founders intent.” Also, without the implied power of judicial review, none of the Bill of Rights would have been incorporated to the states. You wouldnt want that would you.

    • dghattierdc

      No there is not a seaparation, Just not making laws reflecting establishment of a STATE religion or stopping the free expression there of. The currrent interpretation is a tortured one not intended by the Founders.
      And besides if lack of proper maintanance of the lamp pole can be determined, it isnt an act of GOd, its the cities problem for not checking.
      Pay the mans bill.

    • the tennesseean

      We have separation of Church and State in Nashville TN. One city block separates State Street and Church Street… :-{)}

    • Ghostsouls

      According to most government offices of today there is no god, you can’t invoke the word god, so how can they now hide behind god? Also, that needs to be investigated further, acts of god does not constitute, if the item was not properly installed by city workers and they were negligent when it was installed, nor does it cover, that it deteriorated and was left unchecked and they did not maintain it properly. He needs an attorney.

      • Darold Boucher

        Of course if you were an athiest then you’d have to PROVE that there ISN’T a God. Let’s all come together and sing: “May the circle be unbroken”

      • Kranix

        Actually no, and atheist does NOT have to prove there is no god. They are not the one making a positive claim, so they have to provide nothing. The burden of proof falls on the one asserting there is a god/higher power/whatever.

      • Ghostsouls

        Also, if I were an aethiest, I would take the city to court, and do 2 things first make them PROVE there IS a god, not just a belief, and Secondly that if they prove there is a god, that it was God that did drop the light on his car!!

  • Bethany

    With all the hype of protestors taking God out of everything, I do not think it is fair for them to use Him when its conveinent for them. In God we trust and Merry Christmas!

    • EmmOne

      The term originates from the 13th century when people still believed the Earth was the center of the universe and infections were caused by noxious vapors. Like many areas of law, the literal meaning of the term itself is irrelevant.

      Often lawyers use the term “force majure” which is (mostly) the same concept without the silly mythological baggage, but it is unlikely you’ll find a government employee who can even read that, let alone say it.

      • Clearhead

        “EmmOne” reminds me of my Marine Corps rifle whose muzzle velocity was about 2,750 feet per second. IIt was called an “M1”) “EmmOne” seems to have a muzzle velocity much lower than that of my M1, and doesn’t seem to realize he’s been outclassed. It is very nice to learn however that the literal meaning of the law has no relevance to the law itself. Now we can all do whatever we please, law, or no law. Lawyers use words in the performance of their ‘practice’, therefore, by “EmmOne” ‘s declaration most of their statements are ‘irrelevant’. One reason a government employee would have trouble reading, or pronouncing your quoted term is because you have mis-spelled it. The Proper spelling of the word, as some lawyers (and thread commentators) demonstrate clearly is not ‘force majure” but rather “FARCE MANURE”.

    • george

      EmmOne is correct. “Act of God” is a very old legal term of art. Using it has nothing to do with current-day belief or disbelief in a higher being.

  • TJP

    God decided when it should fall, but the city was responsible for making sure it didn’t fall at all. Act of God should be reserved for massive windstorms or lightning strikes or things like that.

    • DaveAgain

      For purposes of insurance, it generally is, unless some idiot tries to defy the laws of physics. With manmade structures and other such junk, shabby workmanship or design was to blame.

      But then, who makes the laws? Untrustworthy politicians. So apparently God lives on Earth in the form of numerous city utility workers. Who’dathunk?
      Makes you wonder what other disasters “God’s” shabby workmanship has left around the city to befall people there..and apparently in any other city in Texas..

      Texas may be the most profitable state in the union per capita (I guess this helps to explain why), but this is now added to a list of reasons I have no desire to ever go there.

  • usefulgod

    The city suddenly finds God when it’s wallet is in danger! Betcha can’t have a nativity scene in downtown Fort Worth and the police probably are not allowed to say Merry Christmas but when their light falls on a car, all of the sudden, it’s no longer a hate crime for the city to recognize God. Interesting and convenient, no?

  • WR

    This is a case of ‘res ipsa loquitor’. A properly designed, manufactured, installed, inspected, and maintained city owned light fixture does not just fall on a car without something being wrong. But how much is the case worth? Unfortunately, in this case, the cost to forensically determine exactly what caused the fixture to fail, fall, and cause the damage outweighs the potential value of any recovery..

    • Kauaicat

      I’m a structural engineer, and it appears that the connection of the lamp fixture to the pole failed. Based on the film clip, this street light is one of many similar light installations on the same road, which makes it unlikely that the failure of the light is a design flaw, but most likely improper installation. I suspect that either a bolt or bolt was either not tightened, and worked itself loose during periodic wind gusts, or may not have even been installed.

      In any case, the city is still liable IMO. While the fixture and the pole were not manufactured by the the city, the installer of the pole, either city workers or a contractor EMPLOYED by the city, is responsible for the proper attachment of the fixture to the pole. Even a half-decent lawyer would win this case quickly, because the amount of damages is comparable to 8 billing hrs for the city lawyer, i.e. one letter laying out the case would probably result in quick settlement.

  • David Earnest

    Actually the last city employee to touch that lamp when it was installed is responsible. God had nothing to do with it. Really a guy named Lamer?

  • duh_swami

    So sue God…he has lots of deep pockets..

    • Kranix

      You could always sue his earthly representatives…

  • bp789

    To whomever wrote this article:
    “on sight”, should have been written “on site”. Look it up in a dictionary. Jeez.

    • george

      bp789: It should be, “To whoever wrote this article.” Look it up in a grammar book.

      • Sam

        Actually, “whoever” in this case would be the object of a preposition (to), and therefore would be “whomever.” Look it up in a grammar book

  • Mack Hall

    So is this a lamp unto thy feet?

    • DudeZXT

      No. It’s a lamp unto thy trunk.

    • george


  • Rascal69

    Since the City of Fort Worth has acknowledged the existence of God, I guess they will have to replace the copy of the Ten Commandments at the courthouse and set up the Nativity Scene in preparation for Christmas. You can’t have it both ways, either they believe in him or they don’t. Since they invoke him as a way to blame someone other than themselves, I guess they have to accept the consequences.

    • DaveAgain

      I remember those, and I’m halfway across the coutnry. Sounds like the state wants to have its cake and eat it, too. I think the pastor shoul dhave escalated this case. For him, it was a Hyundai, but the next person might just be a bicyclist, or a kid walking down the sidewalk.

      If the city and its workers figure they aren’t liable if they aren’t present, there is no incentive to safe repairs. Just another avenue to the slippery slope to poor quality that the whole coultry is sprinting toward.

  • Marcus Allen

    Thank you Fort Worth for Acknowledging the existence of the Lord especially at this glorious time of year when we all seek guidance and comfort in the hearts and souls of all men and women.

    • Darold Boucher

      Amen brother Marcus

    • Kranix

      Yeah, that whole “praying for rain” thing you guys did a few months ago was quite effective.

      Of course it didn’t rain until an atheist held a concert…

  • BigBoa

    But there IS no God…..

    Just ask them……

    Sheer hypocrisy. This should be considered VERY offensive by all of the nations atheists. Perhaps THEY will take up a collection to fix the guy’s car? Kind of odd that THEY aren’t “occupying” the city hall, demanding that it pay……

    • George Whitefield

      Im an atheist. Often a very rabid one. ‘Acts of God’ doesn’t offend me. It’s been listed on virtually all of my leases and is easy to understand. I take it to mean ‘shyt happens, get over it.’ Preferably, the government wouldn’t use the term. There are after all plenty of religions who do not acknowledge a ‘God,’ and using the term establishes a preference for one religion, or group of religions, over others. The state has its liability guidelines, as briefly mentioned in the article. The court system might be the best way to determine liability, to protect the tax payers who created and fund the government.

      • John Moser

        Your ability to reason is almost as good as your grammar. It’s called punctuation, George. It exists for a reason.

      • Mary

        Tom, I don’t think you could have sounded any more condescending and judgmental there. If that isn’t the pot calling the kettle black. Well done, sir.

      • Darold Boucher

        Finally an atheist with a sense of humor. George you brought a little light into my world today. I’ll say a prayer for you at church on Sunday.

      • Tom

        George, The Liberal Elite “Atheist”. If you hold your nose any higher, you may fall over. There is no such person as a true atheist. The term, atheist, means “without god”. I would suspect that you have a god in your life. From the tone of your responses, I would guess you are your own god. Perhaps you worship money, or your therapist or your dog. Whatever your god may be, there is something in your life that you hold higher than your own opinion. The good news is that someday, you will learn that there actually is a God of the universe that loves you and tried to show you his truth…but your self-righteous attitude wouldn’t let you see past your nose.

  • Brandon

    Nickle and dime us all with fines for victimless traffic “crimes,” but use any loophole they can to use some of that money to help us out when it’s clear they should.

  • John Villanueva

    Lack of maintenance is now an act of God.

    Good to know. Guess I don’t have to change the oil in my car, change the AC filter, etc…

    • Sammie Jo

      Did God install that light? If he did, then it’s his fault for not properly installing it and maintaining it.
      The city should have insurance to cover this, more money will be wasted in court than fixing the man’s car.

  • Crunchin' Clunkers

    Hyundai Sonata?

    If it was totaled, the traffic light did him a favor.

    • Spanky

      They’re actually pretty good cars. The Koreans are getting the act together in terms of auto manufacturing.

      Maybe you remember how bad Japanese cars were in the 60s and 70s? They were horrible! Now, they are higher quality than US- made cars. The Koreans learned a lot from the Japanese.

  • Dano

    I guess since the city is acting like they are God, therefore in God’s place, then God should pay up.

  • SmarterThanLibs

    An “act of god” has nothing to do with bad workmanship and the lack of proper maintenance. Get a lawyer and sue the city. I am SURE the city lawyers are interpreting the “act of God” clause incorrectly to protect their rears.

    • george

      That’s probably correct. Government officials often view common citizens as idiots — and only idiots allow them to get away with it.

  • HansJurgen

    OK, where are the libs and the atheist since this is forcing “God” on this man. But, then that’s a typical, hypocritical lib mindset. It was “God’s ” fault or maybe “Bush’s” fault – no taking responsibility for their liberal mistakes. This man should sue the city for using religion or even saying “God” since that is suppose to be against separation of Church and State.

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