E. Joseph Buffa, Attorney at Law, for claimant.
Nancy J. Aliff, Attorney at Law, for respondent.


The claimant, Nina G. Jones, born July 10, 1949, seeks damages in the
amount of
$125,000.00 for personal injuries. At about 5:00 a.m., on August 10,
1982, on Route 3 near
Pettus, in Raleigh County, she was driving herself to work when she ran
into water on the
highway. She testified that the water had caused her car to hydroplane
to its right; that a short
stretch of highway where there was no water had allowed her to regain
control and get back
onto the road; that a second stretch of water on the highway had caused
her car to hydroplane
again, to its left; that her car went down over a bank on the left side
of the road and struck a tree.

Mrs. Jones was employed at a restaurant in Whitesville and was supposed
to open the
restaurant for business at 5:00 a.m. each day. When she did not arrive
on time, a cook there
telephoned Mrs. Jones' husband, Richard Lee Jones. He immediately
followed her usual
westerly route to Whitesville, but did not see her car. He found it, and
her, as he retraced the
route. He described the location of the car as being 20 feet off the
highway and almost straight
across from the Graybill residence. He took his wife in his car to the
restaurant in Whitesville.
She was transported by ambulance to Charleston Memorial Hospital and
then to the Eye and
Ear Clinic in Charleston where she was confined for four days. She lost
two weeks' wages at
$300.00 per week. Her medical expenses were in the amount of $2,529.45
at the date of
hearing. Dr. Samuel A. Strickland, her attending physician, in a letter
medical report dated
November 3, 1982, reported that she had sustained " ... severe trauma to
her left eye with
secondary marked decreased vision due to optic atrophy from the left eye
with vision being hand
motions only to the side and the visual loss being permanent as a result
of a direct blow to the left
eye... ." There was also a laceration above her left eye. In describing
her vision in the left eye, as
a result of her accident, Mrs. Jones said she can see "Mostly light and
dark. I can see very few
big images, nothing that I could really make out." Her husband described
her self consciousness
and lack of coordination since her injury.

The Jones residence, from which Mrs. Jones had departed on the morning
of her accident,
was at Packsville, about 3 miles east of Whitesville. She had driven
about a mile and a half to
Pettus where she drove into the water on the highway. on several
previous occasions, she had
seen water on the highway in that vicinity after several days of rain.
She said she had been
unaware of any heavy rainfall the night before or overnight, before her
accident. It was not
raining as she drove west toward Pettus and Whitesville, but the highway
was wet. It was dark.
She had her headlights on, but did not see the water on the highway
until she hit the first of it at a
speed she estimated to be 40 to 45 miles per hour. In describing what
happened, she said
"...there was one place that didn't have water on the road there, and
that's when I got my car
straightened back up and just when I got back up on the road there then
there was another big
place with water in it. That was when like it hydroplaned, went out of

Mr. Jones described the highway, where he had found his wife that
morning, as having been
covered with water. Gary Delano Barker also testified about water on the
highway when he
stopped at the accident scene shortly after the accident, after Mrs.
Jones had been taken away.
He also described two different areas of water across the highway with a
section of ten or fifteen
feet of highway between them. He said the water in the first area was
then about an inch deep
and that the water in the second area was then about two and a half to
three inches deep for a
distance of about twenty feet.

Paul Raymond Doss, whose residence is at Pettus, near where a culvert
passes beneath the
highway, had seen the highway at about 6:20 a.m. as he was leaving home
to go to work. He
described the highway as having water and trash on it. He estimated the
water to be six inches
deep. He also described how the culvert gets clogged up, causing water
to run across the road.
A few days before Mrs. Jones' accident, Mr. Doss's wife, Helen Pauline
Doss, had made a
telephone complaint, about water on the highway and her yard, to an
office of the respondent in
Charleston. Also a few days before Mrs. Jones' accident, another Pettus
resident, one Cecil
Browning, had complained to JoAnn McCormick, a secretary at the
Whitesville Detachment of
the Department of Public Safety. Ms. McCormick testified that she had
passed along his
complaint to the Beckley Detachment which later confirmed that the
respondent's Beckley office
had been notified.

The witnesses frequently using the subject stretch of highway variously
estimated the number of
times each year when rain water overflows the culvert and covers the
highway. Respondent's
witnesses found no record of cleaning the inlet or outlet or the culvert
itself in a number of
months prior to August 10, 1982.

Charles W. Bragg, respondent's assistant county superintendent for
Raleigh County, said that
they have had problems constantly when there are heavy rains in the
vicinity of the subject
culvert at Pettus. He said that rocks and debris from the hillside stop
up the culvert.

Claude Blake, an investigator employed by respondent, had twice
measured the distance along
the westbound lane of the highway, from the center of the subject
culvert to the middle of the
Graybill residence, and stated that distance to be 670 feet. Paul
Raymond Doss estimated the
distance from his residence, right across the road from the culvert, to
where Mrs. Jones' car
came to rest, as 90 to 100 feet. Photographs in evidence suggest the
distance to be as measured.

While the State is neither an insurer nor a guarantor of the safety of
travellers on its highways, it
does owe a duty of reasonable care and diligence in the maintenance of a
highway. Parsons
v. State Road Comm'n., 8 Ct.Cl. 35 (1969). The evidence in this case
established that
respondent knew of the culvert problem, the frequent flooding of the
highway, and had received
recent complaints prior to claimant's accident. The Court finds
respondent negligent for its failure
to take satisfactory corrective action. The Court also finds the
claimant guilty of negligence in
her failure to keep a proper lookout ahead and for operating her vehicle
at a speed in excess of
a reasonable speed under the conditions then and there existing. The
Court, having determined
claimant's damages to be $25,000.00, and under the doctrine of
comparative negligence having
apportioned 70% negligence to respondent and 30% negligence to claimant,
makes an award in
the amount of $17,500.00 to the claimant.

Award of $17,500.00.