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West Virginia Court of Claims

Volume Number: 29
Opinion Issued February 14, 2013
     Claimant appeared pro se.
     Andrew F. Tarr, Attorney at Law, for Respondent.
      Claimant, Aaron C. Yanuzo, brought this action for vehicle damage which occurred when his 2008 Ford Fusion struck a hole while traveling along Collins Ferry Road in Star City, Monongalia County. Collins Ferry Road is a public road maintained by Respondent. The Court is of the opinion to make an award in this claim for the reasons more fully stated below.
      The incident giving rise to this claim occurred at approximately 3:00 a.m. on September 6, 2009. Claimant testified that while traveling to Timberland Apartments on Collins Ferry Road, approximately a half mile from the entrance, his vehicle struck a manhole cover in the travel portion of the roadway. When the vehicle made contact with the hole it caused the manhole cover to raise up and cause damage under the passenger side door. As a result, Claimant’s vehicle sustained damage in the amount of $1,500.00. Claimant’s collision insurance required a $1,000.00 deductible at the time of the incident. The position of Respondent is that it did not have actual or constructive notice of a defective manhole cover on the date of the incident.
      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 the Respondent liable for road defects of this type, the Claimant must prove that the 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, based upon the testimony and evidence presented, the Court is of the opinion that the Respondent had, at the least, constructive notice of the hole which the Claimant’s vehicle struck and that the hole presented a hazard to the traveling public. Since the defective manhole cover was in the travel portion of the roadway, and based on the weight of evidence, the Court finds that Respondent was negligent. Thus, Claimant may make a recovery for the damage to his vehicle.
      It is the opinion of the Court of Claims that Claimant should be awarded the sum of $1,000.00.
      Award of $1,000.00.

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