Assignment America Preview

When you trip on the sidewalk, do you get mad at yourself?

Or do you get mad at the sidewalk?

The 92-year-old woman in tonight's Assignment America gets mad at the sidewalk -- or, more specifically, she gets mad at "the bastards" at the city who didn't properly maintain the sidewalk.

Kathleen Harris has been giving those city officials an earful for years and tonight she brings her bluntness to the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.

Of course, there are a lot of seniors who have unkind words for their elected officials (look no further than my father), but what makes Kathleen different is what she has done to make the "SOBs" accountable.

A few years ago, after she tripped on a sidewalk in her hometown of Oswego, NY, and nearly broke her nose, Kathleen tried to get the city to pay her doctor bill. The city refused -- citing a New York State law that says a city can't be held liable for a sidewalk problem unless someone notified the city, in writing, about the problem before the accident.

It's a good out for the city because, really, who in their right mind is going to go to the trouble of documenting every single crack on every singe sidewalk in town?! No one! -- but Kathleen Harris, of course.

Kathleen has now completed the 4 year project. She now knows every piece of pavement that isn't flush to within a quarter of an inch. And she has turned her log sheets over to the city -- all 10,000+ entries.

So what is the city going to say next time someone trips over a sidewalk and wants to sue? I don't know, the city attorney isn't returning my phone calls. But if I hear from her this afternoon I'll be sure and report it in tonight's broadcast. If not, you'll still hear from Kathleen. And believe me, she's worth tuning in for all by herself.

  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.