Dousings Leave Blind Man Steamed Up

Times Staff Writer

Leo Storch got mad the first time he was sprayed by a sprinkler while he was using a pay telephone outside the San Vicente Library in West Hollywood.

That was in April. He's been drenched twice more, and Storch, who is blind, wants $500 for his trouble.

"I told the city if they're going to soak the sidewalk they have to have someone there to watch out for someone like me," said Storch, 66. "The sidewalk is supposed to be safe."

He said the first incident happened April 28, when a spray of water hit him as he used the telephone outside the library on San Vicente Boulevard, where he listens to volunteer readers.

A bus driver who had just led him to the phone helped him get away from the water and also rescued a pile of documents lying on the ground, Storch said.

Then, on May 22, he was using the phone again when the sprinkler started.

"I got all drenched from the waist down," Storch said.

That aggravated his high blood pressure, he said, and prompted his $500 claim against the city for physical and mental distress.

Since then, there has been yet another soaking at the same spot, he said. Andy Haenfler, the city's risk manager, said the problem should not reoccur. He said the sprinklers had been turned on during the day to water a newly planted lawn. Generally they are only operated at night, he said.

At its meeting Tuesday night, the City Council referred Storch's case to its claims adjuster. Haenfler said a recommendation is expected in about 45 days.

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