OPINION ISSUED JANUARY 23, 1998
DIVISION OF HIGHWAYS
Claimant represents self.
Andrew F. Tarr, Attorney at Law, for respondent.
Claimant Kimberly Lewis brought this action for
compensation for damage to her 1987 Cavalier automobile resulting
from a slip in a road maintained by the respondent.
On or about June 2, 1996, at approximately 10.00 p.m.,
the claimant was operating her vehicle on Green Valley Drive, also
known as Route 8, in St. Albans. The weather was clear, and
claimant was driving at approximately 10 to 15 miles per hour. The
evidence is that Green Valley Drive in this area is a paved narrow
road with several curves and dips. Claimant was unfamiliar with
the road, having never driven it before. The testimony and
photographs introduced by the claimant indicate that claimant
encountered a slip on the right side of the road just as she was
topping the crest of a small incline, resulting in damage to her
tire, wheel and suspension in the amount of $541.54, the cost of
repairs. Claimant carried liability insurance only.
Charles E. Smith, maintenance crew chief for the
respondent, testified that in late 1994 or early 1995 the road was
undermined after a third party had undercut the road for purposes
of a trailer foundation. In October 1995, the respondent installed
gabion baskets, a temporary foundation made of rock and wire, to
shore up the road. These gabion baskets held until a strong storm
on or about May 27, 1996, just days before claimant's accident.
Mr. Smith testified that as a result of the storm, the slip broke
Mr. Smith testified that after the storm, but prior to
the claimant's accident, several "Hazard" signs were placed at the
location of the slip to warn motorists. However, the claimant's
testimony and photographic evidence establish that the location of
the slip was not readily visible to approaching motorists, and
there were no other warning signs installed until after claimant's
accident, when the respondent installed a sign reading "One Lane
Road 500 Feet."
The law is well settled that state is neither an insurer
nor guarantor of the safety of persons traveling on its highways.
For respondent to be held liable for damage caused by a road defect, it must have had actual or constructive knowledge of the
condition and a reasonable amount of time to take corrective
action. Davis vs. Division of Highways, 11 Ct.Cl. 150 (1977);
Chapman vs. Division of Highways, 16 Ct. Cl. 103 (1986). The Court
is of the opinion that the respondent had reason to know that the
slip created a substantial risk to motorists and should have
installed additional warning signs pending repairs. Accordingly,
the Court is of the opinion that claimant is entitled to an award
for her cost of repairs. The claimant submitted a bill documenting
the costs of repairing her vehicle in the amount of $541.54, and
the Court therefore makes an award of this amount.
Award of $541.54.