OPINION ISSUED DECEMBER 20, 2000
THOMAS J. CARR
DIVISION OF HIGHWAYS
Claimant appeared pro se.
Andrew F. Tarr, Attorney at Law, for respondent.
Claimant brought this action for vehicle damage sustained when
his vehicle struck a hole while he was traveling in the right lane
of the eastbound lanes on I-70 at the Exit 5 bridge in Triadelphia.
At this location, I-70 is maintained by respondent in Ohio County.
The Court is of the opinion to make an award in this claim for the
reasons more fully set forth below.The incident giving rise to
this claim occurred on March 23, 2000, at approximately 7:30 a.m.
Claimant was proceeding in the right lane of the two eastbound
lanes of I-70 at the east end of the Exit Three bridge. He was
driving a leased 1999 Mazda Millennium and his wife was a
passenger. Claimant was traveling from his residence in Columbus,
Ohio, to Orange, Connecticut, a trip he makes about three times per
year. He was driving at a speed of about fifty-five to sixty miles
per hour. As he proceeded on I-70, he noticed a gaping hole in
the middle of the right lane of the Exit Three bridge as his
vehicle was leaving the metal expansion joint. The hole was
approximately two to three feet in diameter and was about six to
seven inches deep. Claimant was unable to avoid having his vehicle
strike the hole. The impact burst the front tire on the driver's
side and bent the rim. Afterwards, claimant maneuvered the vehicle
to the edge of the interstate. He then flagged down one of
respondent's employees who had driven to the scene and he informed
him of the hole and the incident. As a result of this incident,
claimant's vehicle sustained damage in excess of the $250.00
deductible feature in his motor vehicle insurance policy. In
accordance with the Court's decision in Summerville et al. vs.
Division of Highways, any recovery would be limited to the amount
of his deductible feature. See Id., 18 Ct. Cl. 110 (1991).
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 vs. 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 time
to take corrective action. Chapman vs. Dept. of Highways, 16 Ct.
Cl. 103 (1986).
In this claim, the evidence established that respondent had at
least constructive, if not actual, knowledge of the defective
condition on I-70. The Court is of the opinion that the hole in the interstate constituted a hazardous condition and that
respondent should have been more observant of problems on the
interstate because of its high priority status. Consequently,
there is sufficient evidence of negligence on the part of
respondent by which claimant may recover his sustained loss.
In accordance with the findings of fact and conclusions of law
stated herein above, the Court is of the opinion to and does make
an award in this claim.
Award of $250.00.