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West Virginia Court of Claims

Volume Number: 29
Opinion Issued January 10, 2012
     Claimant appeared pro se.
     Michael J. Folio, Attorney at Law, for Respondent.
      Claimant brought this action for vehicle damage which occurred while her husband was driving her 2008 Ford F–250 Super Duty. Claimant struck a protruding road sign while traveling on County Route 85 near Van, Boone County. County Route 85 is a public road maintained by Respondent. The Court believes that Claimant should receive an award in this claim for reasons more fully stated below.
      The incident giving rise to this claim occurred at approximately 3:30 p.m. on February 8, 2011. County Route 85 is a two-lane road with painted lines. Thomas D. Crouse, the driver, testified that he had driven this route frequently over the years and had noticed the sign before. He also testified that he had to hit the sign in order to avoid hitting an oncoming Coca-Cola truck. There is nothing in the record to suggest that inclement weather played a part in the incident. Hitting this sign caused the vehicle to sustain damage to its right review mirror and door trim in the amount of $682.50; however, the Claimant has a $500.00 deductible; therefore, any award is limited to $500.00.
      The position of the Respondent is that it did not have actual or constructive notice of the condition on County Route 85 at the time of the incident, and that Respondent did not own the retaining wall that caused the sign to protrude; therefore, Respondent maintains that the property owner is liable.
      The well-established principle of law in West Virginia is that the State is neither an insurer nor a guarantor of the safety of travelers upon its roads. Adkins v. Sims, 130 W.Va. 645, 46 S.E.2d 81 (1947). In order to hold Respondent liable for road defects of this type, Claimant must prove that Respondent had actual or constructive notice of the defect and a reasonable amount of time to take corrective action. Pritt v. Dep’t of Highways, 16 Ct. Cl. 8 (1985); Chapman v. Dep’t of Highways, 16 Ct. Cl. 103 (1986).
      In the instant case, the Court is of the opinion that Respondent had, at the least, constructive notice of the sign in question. Furthermore, Respondent’s claim that the property owner is to blame has no merit and amounts to speculation at best. Thus, Claimant may make a recovery for the damage to his vehicle.
      It is the opinion of the Court of Claims that the Claimant should be awarded the sum of $500.00.
      Award of $500.00.

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