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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, Mark D. Panepinto, brought this action for vehicle damage which occurred when his 2008 Mercedes S550 struck a hole while traveling along GC&P Road in Wheeling, Ohio County. GC&P 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 6:00 p.m. on November 21, 2011. Claimant testified that he was traveling home from work along GC&P Road at a speed of approximately twenty-five to thirty miles per hour, when his vehicle struck a hole in the roadway that appeared to be the result of excavation work performed by Respondent. The Claimant’s testimony was supported by photographic evidence. Claimant stated that the excavated area was compacted so that the edge of the hole was the equivalent to a three inch sharp asphalt curb. As a result, Claimant’s vehicle sustained damage to its tires and rims in the amount of $6,123.34. Claimant had liability insurance only.
      The position of Respondent is that it did not have actual or constructive notice of the condition along GC&P Road on the date of the incident. Mark Griffith, County Administrator for the Respondent in Ohio County, testified that he is familiar with the roadway . Mr. Griffith further stated that maintenance work had been conducted at the location, but he had no notice of a condition that would pose a hazard to the traveling public.
      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, the Court is of the opinion that Respondent had, at the least, constructive notice of the excavated hole which Claimant’s vehicle struck and that the hole presented a hazard to the traveling public. Therefore, the Court finds that Respondent was negligent. 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 $6,123.34.
      Award of $6,123.34.

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