OPINION ISSUED JANUARY 19, 2001
DIVISION OF HIGHWAYS
Claimant appeared pro se.
Andrew F. Tarr, Attorney at Law, for respondent.
Claimant brought this action for vehicle damage sustained when
her vehicle wrecked after sliding across a patch of ice while
traveling southbound on County Route 73/73 in Fairmont. At this
location, County Route 73/73 is maintained by respondent in Marion
County. The Court is of the opinion to deny this claim for the
reasons more fully set forth below.
The incident giving rise to this claim occurred on December
11, 1999, at approximately 9:25 a.m. Claimant was traveling
southbound on County Route 73/73 in her 1988 Plymouth Horizon at a
speed of about twenty-five miles per hour. She was proceeding from
her residence in Fairmont toward her place of employment at the
Meadowbrook Mall. Earlier in the morning, claimant heard on the
radio that inclement weather conditions had created hazardous
conditions on the roadways. At this location, County Route 73/73
is a first priority, two-lane road with double yellow lines
indicating the center of the road surface and white lines
indicating the edges of the pavement. The road is twenty-one feet
wide. Each lane of travel is about nine and one-half feet wide
between the lines on the road surface. As claimant drove her
vehicle on the wet roads, her vehicle suddenly struck a patch of
ice across the road surface. Claimant estimated that the patch of
ice extended across the road about five feet. She testified that
she believed that the water and ice on the road surface was due to
a drainage problem in the area. After striking the patch of ice,
her vehicle began to skid and she lost control of her vehicle.
Claimant's vehicle swerved into the other lane of travel and into
a nearby property owner's yard. It struck a gas meter as it struck
the side of the property owner's residence, then it went up a
slight hill and finally slid down the other side of the hill to the
road surface where it came to rest in the middle of the road.
Emergency vehicles were called to the scene. A member of the
Marion County Sheriff's Department investigated the incident and
determined that there was no improper driving on the part of
claimant. The Marion County Deputy did determine that slippery
pavement was the proximate cause of the incident. Claimant
sustained minor personal injuries. Claimant adduced a medical bill
on November 16, 2000, as a post-hearing exhibit, which established
her medical expenses as a result of this incident in the amount of
$240.40. Since the sustained damage to the vehicle exceeded the value of her vehicle, it was considered "totaled." In addition,
claimant incurred travel expenses as a result of this incident.
Her total loss was estimated to be in the amount of $2,128.82.
The position of respondent is that it did not have notice of
the patch of ice on County Route 73/73 in Marion County. According
to Transportation Crew Chief Harold Swidler, patrols are on duty
all night during times of inclement weather. Prior to this
incident, respondent had no information regarding the ice patch on
the road where claimant had her accident.
Weather conditions in West Virginia can change rapidly during
the winter months. The rapid fluctuations in temperature can cause
moisture and precipitation to collect on road surfaces, forming
ice, which may create slippery road conditions. Thus, in claims of
this nature, the Court has held consistently that an isolated patch
of ice on a highway is insufficient generally to establish
negligence on the part or respondent, without notice and a
reasonable opportunity to remove the hazardous condition. Morris
vs. Div. of Highways, 21 Ct. Cl. 117 (1996); Treadway vs. Dept. of
Highways, 16 Ct. Cl. 101 (1986).
In this claim, the evidence failed to establish that
respondent had notice of a patch of ice on the road surface of
County Route 73/73 in Marion County. While the Court is
sympathetic to the plight of claimant, the fact that her incident
was caused by a patch of ice on the surface of County Route 73/73
is insufficient to establish negligence on the part of respondent.
Consequently, there is no evidence of negligence on the part of
In accordance with the findings of fact and conclusions of law
stated herein above, the Court is of the opinion to and does deny