Ralph W. Haines and George Daugherty, Attorney at Law, for claimant.
Nancy J. Aliff, Attorney at Law, for respondent.


This claim was filed by Paul P. Knott as Executor of the Estate of his
wife, Delores C. Knott,
whose death occurred as the result of a single care accident at about
6:45 a.m. on Friday,
January 27, 1984, in the vicinity of Ken's Grocery, about 2.7 miles West
of Burlington on Route
50, in Mineral County. Mrs. Knott was driving the family car, a 1978
Buick, with new all reason
radial tires, westerly on Route 50, on her way to work as an operating
room nurse at Potomac
Valley Hospital in Keyser. after rounding a gradual curve to her right,
she apparently lost control
of her car on a large area of ice on the highway. The car went off the
left side of the highway and
through a parking area of the store, its right side striking a large
tree, and the car coming to rest
down over a bank. From the evidence, it appears that the ice on the
highway was from water
from a drainage ditch on the northerly side of the highway. The
temperature was reported as 20
degrees at 7:00 o'clock that morning.

The icy condition had been similar on the previous morning when two
other vehicle operators
had lost control. Witness Lisa E. Taylor testified about how she had
lost control of the vehicle
she had been operating in a westerly direction at about 8:20 a.m. She
told how the vehicle had
turned and proceeded backwards through the store lot and had been
stopped by a pile of
plowed snow. Shortly afterwards, and having observed other vehicles
coming by as he helped
her from her car and into his store, Kenneth L. Welch, owner of the
store had telephoned the
respondent's office:

"I told them exactly what had happened. I said we're going to have a
real bad accident. Not
something similar like the one had just happened. The only response I
got, 'We are aware of the

At about 6:10 a.m. on that previous morning, witness Jeffrey S. Pyle had
also lost control of his
vehicle on the patch of ice as he was traveling westerly. He, too, had
gone off the left side of the
highway, his vehicle finally coming to rest in the store parking lot.
After proceeding to his job, he
had telephoned the respondent, describing the patch of ice as "about
three car lengths long" and
emphasizing its serious nature. On the following morning, he had hit a
patch of ice there again and
had again, upon arrival at work, telephone the respondent, but the fatal
accident had probably
then already occurred.

Sergeant (then Trooper) G. A. Armentrout, of the Department of Public
Safety, testified about
his investigation of the accident resulting in the death of Mrs. Knott.
He arrived at the scene at
about 8:00 a.m. He had indicated the presence of an "icy area" on his

Several of respondent's employees testified and several daily record
forms of respondent were
placed in evidence. There was no testimony or exhibit tot he effect that
the subject patch of ice
had been dealt with in any manner prior to the accident and death of
Mrs. Knott. A work form
for the previous day, January 26, did show that a dump truck and
spreader had been sent out at
some time with two tons of salt (with abrasives) for Route 50 but did
not show any application
of same to the subject patch of ice. Mr. Pyle said that, in his two
telephone reports to the
respondent, he had been told that the highway had been treated earlier.
He said he had closely
examined the patch of ice on the morning on January 27th and that
nothing had been applied to it.

At the time of her death Mrs. Knott was the income provider for her
family, earning $18,557
from her employment while the family dairy farm had operated at a loss
during 1983. In addition
to her husband, Mrs. Knott was survived by four daughters. It had been a
close family. Ann
Knott, the oldest, was managing a bowling alley in Romney. Linda Knott
was a Senior at Salem
College. Susan Knott Marks was married and living at Frederick,
Maryland. The youngest, Janet
Delores Knott (now Bacorn) was a Junior in high school, and plans were
being made for her to
go to college, plans which had to be abandoned by reason of her mother's

The evidence showed that the described icy condition, at that place,
was one which had never
occurred prior to January 26, 1984. Mrs. Knott had stayed home from work
that day,
recovering from a cold, and apparently had no forewarning of its

Respondent's ditch work is ordinarily done in warn weather months. But
had the respondent
appropriately responded to the telephone calls it received from Mr.
Welch and Mr. Pyle on
January 26, 1984, it is a fair assumption that the ditch would have been
cleaned, keeping the
water from flowing into the highway, or that the area would have been
adequately treated with
salt and abrasives during the following freezing temperature night and
early morning hours.
Neither of these actions was taken, nor were any warning signs placed.

This Court has repeatedly held that the State is not a guarantor of the
safety of travelers on its
roads, following Adkins vs. Sims, 130 W.Va. 645, 46 S.E.2d 81 (1947).
Exceptions have been
allowed where the Department of Highways had actual or constructive
notice of a defect and,
having adequate time, had failed to correct the defect or provide
warning signs or barriers.
Neither can the State be required nor expected to keep its highways
absolute free of ice and
snow at all times, and the presence of an isolated ice patch on a
highway during winter months is
generally insufficient to charge the Stat with negligence. See 39 AM.
JUR. 2d Highways, Streets
and Bridges, par. 506. See also Woofter vs. State Road Comm'n., 2 Ct.Cl.
393 (1944);
Christo vs. Dotson, 151 W.Va. 696, 155 S.E.2d 571 (1967). However, this
Court did find
negligence and impost liability on the State, with reference to such an
isolated patch of ice where
its presence was not due to natural elements, but due to a clogged
culvert, the routine
maintenance of which was the admitted responsibility of the State, even
tough it was unclear
whether the State had or should have had actual knowledge of the
particular culvert adjacent to
the site of the accident, the State being chargeable with a duty to
inspect and correct the
condition within the limits of funds appropriated by the legislature.
Application of salt and cinders
was inadequate, it being foreseeable that the continued spread of water
onto the road and the
drop in temperature after sundown, would result in the reformation of
ice. McDonald vs.
Department of Highways, 13 Ct.Cl. 13 (1979). The facts of the instant
case are practically
identical except that here a drainage ditch was clogged, and the
Department of Highways had
actual notice, about twenty-four hours earlier, of the present of the
ice. Its failure to take
appropriate action to determine and correct the situation requires a
finding of negligence on its

Accordingly, the Court makes an award in the sum of $152,732.00 to Paul
P. Knott,
Executor of the Estate of Delores C. Knott, Decease, including:

(A) The sum of $2,723.00 for funeral expenses;

(B) The sum of $50,000.00 to be distributed to Paul
P. Knott, surviving husband of Delores C. Knott;

(C) The sum of $23,750.00 to be distributed to Ann
Knott, a surviving daughter of Delores C. Knott;

(D) The sum of $23,750.00 to be distributed to Linda
Knott, a surviving daughter of Delores C. Knott;

(E) The sum of 23,750.00 to be distributed to Susan
Knott Marks, a surviving daughter of Delores C.
Knott; and

(F) The sum of $28,750.00 to be distributed to Janet
Delores Knott Bacorn, a surviving daughter of
Delores C. Knott.

Total Award $152,732.00.