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West Virginia Court of Claims

Volume Number: 29
Opinion Issued January 10, 2012
     Claimants appeared pro se.
     Andrew F. Tarr, Attorney at Law, for Respondent.
      Claimants brought this action for vehicle damage, which occurred when Claimant Deloris Landis was driving their 2010 Honda Fit. Claimants’ vehicle struck a large hole while Mrs. Landis traveling along W. Va. Route 20 in Clarksburg, Harrison County. W. Va. Route 20 is a public road maintained by Respondent. The Court believes that Claimants should receive an award in this claim for reasons more fully stated below.
      The incident giving rise to this claim occurred at approximately 6:00 p.m. on April 12, 2011. W. Va. Route 20 is a one-way street with painted white edge lines at the location where this incident occurred. It becomes a four-lane road beyond the scene of this incident. Mrs. Landis testified that it had been raining on the day in question, and water had accumulated along the roadway. As a result of the water on the roadway, she stated that she was not able to see the defective condition around a manhole located in the main travel portion of the road. It was not marked with any warning signs. As a result, the Claimants’ vehicle sustained damage in the amount of $458.88. Claimants carried vehicle insurance which requires a $500.00 deductible; therefore, any award to Claimants is limited to the amount of the deductible.
      The position of the Respondent is that it had no actual or constructive notice of the condition of the road. Now that the condition has been brought to Respondent’s attention, however, Respondent’s witness testified that there is nothing that they can do about manhole covers that are not extended to be level with resurfaced roads.
      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 condition of the deterioration at the site of the manhole which Claimants’ vehicle struck, and that the condition presented a hazard to the traveling public. The Court concludes that Respondent was negligent for its maintenance of this area of the roadway . Thus, Claimants may make a recovery for the damage to their vehicle.
      It is the opinion of the Court of Claims that the Claimants should be awarded the sum of $458.88.
      Award of $458.88.

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