OPINION ISSUED DECEMBER 3, 1987
ROBERT AND LYDIA LEFFEW
DEPARTMENT OF HIGHWAYS
James Barber, Attorney at Law, appeared for claimants.
Nancy J. Aliff, Attorney at Law, appeared for respondent.
The claimants in this action seek recovery of $10,018.00 for
their real estate and to
their 1970 americana mobile home located on Eskins Avenue in
West Virginia. Claims purchased the lot and mobile home in 1981 or
Lee Leffew originally filed the claim in his name. When the
revealed that the property
and mobile home are titled in both the names of Robert Lee and
Leffew, the Court
granted the motion of the claimant to include Lydia Leffew as a
The claimant's property and mobile home are located below and to
right of the Chelyan
Bridge which spans the Kanawha River from Route 61. Eskins Avenue
street in front of
claimants' property. This street is not maintained by respondent.
is a storm sewer under
claimants' mobile home which starts on Wilshire Street above Eskins
Avenue. The sewer ends at
the west side of the Chelyan Bridge, emptying into the Kanawha
Wilshire Street is parallel
to Route 61.
Claimant robert Leffew testified that water damage occurred to the
property shortly after the
Chelyan Bridge was resurfaced in 1981 - 1982. He experience no
problems prior to the
work being done on the bridge. Claimants allege that when the
resurface, the drains
were negligently paved over and improperly crowned, and that this
resulted in water
accumulating and standing in claimants' front yard.
Claimant Robert Leffew alleges that the standing water eventually
caused the foundation to
sink resulting in a leak in the ceiling of the mobile home. Water
from the ceiling, down
through the walls, and came into the floor under the carpet.
the other end of the
mobile home started leaking. As the foundation of the mobile home
continued to sink, the
cement steps located in the front of the mobile home pulled away
By instrument dated February 15, 1984, the claimants agreed to
respondent to place a
culvert across the property. At that time, respondent placed a
culvert. According to Mr.
Leffew, respondent ... "run a line off the ditch line, put an
there to turn the water down
into the culvert and run down under the bridge into an open ditch
into a community drain."
This action on respondent's part remedied the problem of the water
standing in claimants' front
yard by diverting it to their back yard. Claimant asserts he was
to repair the mobile home
and that he traded it in October of 1986.
The evidence shows that there were no down spouts on the mobile
take water away
from the foundation, and that the mobile home was held up by 15
block pillars three
blocks high. There were no footers beneath the block pillars.
Testifying on behalf of the respondent was Joseph Thomas Deneault,
Engineer for Maintenance for District 1 for respondent. Mr.
familiar with the area
which is the subject of this claim as it falls within District 1.
described the Chelyan Bridge as
a truss bridge with long approach spans. It is a two-lane bridge,
around 1930 and paved
with asphalt. He estimates that Route 61 is approximately eight or
feet higher that the
claimants' property. He stated that Eskins Avenue is not maintained
respondent. It is Mr.
Deneault's professional opinion that claimants' water problems are
caused by the natural surface
water that fell onto the property, and also by the fact that
was not sloped properly to
drain surface water. He did admit that there had been some increase
drainage as a result of
bridge approach run-off. Mr. Deneault stated that he has not
property after a heavy
rainfall or when there is standing water.
The record in this case fails to support the conclusion that the
resurfacing of the bridge was the
sole proximate cause of the water damage to claimants' property.
water from heavy rains
followed their natural course from the bridge to claimants'
the evidence revealed that
the damaged mobile home lacked a drainage system for water from its
roof. To determine that
the improper resurfacing of the bridge was the proximate cause of
from the roof leaking
into the wall of the mobile home is unwarranted from the evidence.
Accordingly, the Court is of the opinion that the claimants have
shown by a preponderance
of the evidence that the damages claimed were the result of
negligence on the part of
the respondent and hereby disallows the claim.