Mary Blasingim, Attorney at Law, for claimant.
Andrew Lopez, Attorney at Law, for respondent.


The claimants are the owners of a house and lot which are adjacent to
Star Route (Route 31),
Poca, Putnam County, West Virginia. A West Virginia landslide study
establishes that this
property is in a landslide prone area. There is a hill in back of the
house, and the house is at the
base of the slope of the hill. A river borders the downhill side of the
house. The house is a
two-story structure with cinder block foundation. Claimants allege that
as a result of
respondent's reconstruction of a portion of Route 31 in 1977, the land
began to slide, causing
severe damage to the foundation and other parts of the residence, and
claimants are seeking

Ray Kesling, a building contractor, testified that he entered into a
contract with 0. L. Westfall
in mid 1974 to construct the residence. He stated that he placed
reinforcing bars in the cinder
block wall that was on the side of the house which faced the slope. He
put french drains around
the back wall, and down both sides. He waterproofed the areas of the
house which were
underground. To facilitate the building process, Mr. Kesling excavated
an area four feet in height
at the back of the house. He complied with the FHA regulation requiring
at least a 5 percent
minimum slope of all ground fill around any house. He did not see the
house again until 1978,
after the slide had occurred. He found the house to be a "disaster.' He
recommended tearing it

Claimant, O. L. Westfall, testified that he had lived in the area where
his house was built for
approximately fortyfive years. He further testified that the house was
completed in October,
1974. After completion of the house, he did not experience any problems
as to the movement
of earth around the house. He said that there was water standing
consistently in the ditch on the
upper side of Route 31. In 1977 he made a request that Ray Brewer, the
Road Commissioner
of Putnam County, rectify the matter, but no action was taken at this

Within six months of the request, respondent sent a crew to perform
work on Route 31. For a
period of four or five days the crew pulverized the surface of the road.
In March of 1978,
claimant observed a crack in the wall of the carport of his home. He
also noticed that the hill was
moving. He solicited the aid of a friend who worked with a bulldozer in
an attempt to make
repairs for a 12 hour period. At this time, the doors of the house were
beginning to stick, and
the carport wall had fallen in. The slide continued for approximately
forty-eight hours.
Photographic evidence shows the trees which slid toward the residence,
the slippage of the
road, and other damage to the property.
Sam Mayberry, a real estate appraiser, estimated the value of
claimants' property currently to
be $12,500. He estimated that the value of the property prior to the
slippage was $55,000 to

Craig Lyle, a civil engineer, testified that the damage to the property
was the result of a slide.
He stated that the primary cause of the slide was the improper
maintenance of the drain along
Route 31, but that there were other factors involved including the
amount of rainfall in the area.
The location of the house with regard to the slope movement indicated
that the excavation for
the construction of the house was not the primary cause of the
landslide. The fact that the soil
was very soft indicated that the water had not dissipated out of the
soil which condition
contributed to the slide.

Marlin Davis, a maintenance assistant with respondent, testified that
in 1977 the respondent
scarified the blacktop of Route 31, and established a reasonable grade.
He explained that
scarifying entailed taking the existing asphalt, the base, using
scarifier blades on the grader,
breaking it up into smaller pieces and using that as the existing base.
He stated that this
scarifying process should have protected the property below the road. He
admitted that, "Like I
say slide areas, normally water creates them."

Barney Stinnet, a soils engineer with respondent, testified that he was
familiar with the
topography of claimants' property. He stated that he believed the
primary cause of the slide to
be the construction which took place on the lower part of the slope. He
explained that because
claimants' property is in a landslide area, it does not take much to
retrigger a landslide. Water
stood in the ditch line year round. The construction of the house at the
toe of the slope added
weight to that particular area. This could have caused a rerouting of
the flow of the surface
water. As a result, the soil strength could have been reduced which
would cause the lateral
stability of the entire hillside to be reduced.

After careful review of all the evidence presented, the Court is of the
opinion that the damage
to claimants' property resulted from several factors. Water stood in the
ditch line rather than
draining away from the road. Rainfall increased the level of water in
the ditch line. It is evident
that the respondent's actions further aggravated the condition. It is
the opinion of the Court that
respondent was negligent in its maintenance of Route 31 in the vicinity
of claimants' property.
Claimants evidence indicates that the value of the property today is
$12,500.00, and
immediately before the slide the value was estimated to be between
$55,000.00 and
$60,000.00. After deducting the $12,500.00 from the $55,000.00, the
lower estimate of value,
the Court finds damages to the claimant in the amount of $42,500.00.

The Court makes an award to the claimant in the amount of $42,500.00.

Award of $42,500.00.