OPINION ISSUED DECEMBER 6, 1999
BRENDA S. NAPIER
DIVISION OF HIGHWAYS
Claimant appeared pro se.
Andrew F. Tarr, Attorney at Law, for respondent.
Claimant brought this action for vehicle damage which occurred
when her vehicle struck a hole on German Ridge Hill, which is a
part of W.Va. Route 152, proceeding toward Lavalette in Wayne
County. German Ridge Hill, W.Va. Route 152, is a road maintained
by respondent in Wayne County. The Court is of the opinion to make
an award for the reasons more fully stated below.
The incident giving rise to this claim occurred on or about
December 19, 1997, at approximately 8:30 p.m. The weather that
night was clear. Claimant travels this road several times per
week, but had not been on the road for several days. On the night
in question, claimant and her mother were traveling southbound on
German Ridge Hill, which is a part of W.Va. Route 152, toward
Lavalette in Wayne County. German Ridge Hill is a two lane road
with a passing lane in the middle. There was a hole extending from
the right edge of the road into the claimant's lane of travel. The
hole was about two feet in length, six to eight inches wide, and
three to four inches deep.
As claimant proceeded along German Ridge Hill in her 1995
Hyundai Elantra at a speed of about fifty-five miles per hour, her
vehicle's passenger side tire struck the hole in the road.
According to claimant, she did not see the hole until striking it
was unavoidable. Claimant's vehicle sustained damage to the tire
and the wheel assembly. Afterwards, claimant reported the hole to
respondent. The total damage to claimant's vehicle was in the
amount of $244.51, for a tire and a wheel assembly. Claimant's
motor vehicle insurance policy had a deductible feature in the
amount of $500.00.
Respondent contends that it did not have notice regarding the
hole on German Ridge Hill, W.Va. Route 152. After receiving
claimant's complaint, respondent inspected the road but did not
find the hole in question. There was no maintenance on the road
until later in the month when the hole was patched. Respondent had
been working on W.Va. Route 152 during the first part of December
1997, which included patching the location of claimant's incident.
The road again was patched in January 1998. According to
respondent's records, there was a hole that was worthy of being
The well established principle of law in West Virginia is that
the State is neither an insurer nor a guarantor of the safety of motorist upon its roads. Adkins vs. Sims, 130 W.Va. 645; 46 S.E.2d
81 (1947). In order to hold respondent liable for road defects of
this type, claimant must prove that respondent had actual or
constructive notice. Pritt vs. Dept. of Highways, 16 Ct. Cl. 8
(1985); Harmon vs. Dept. of Highways, 16 Ct. Cl. 127 (1986).
In the present claim, the evidence established that respondent
had constructive, if not actual notice of the defective condition.
German Ridge Hill, W.Va. Route 152 in Wayne County is a heavily
traveled road. The Court is of the opinion that respondent did not
take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of drivers using German
Ridge Hill, W.Va. Route 152 in Wayne County. Consequently, there
is sufficient evidence of negligence upon which to base an award.
In view of the foregoing, the Court is of the opinion to and
does make an award in the amount of $244.51 to claimant for the
damages sustained to her vehicle.
Award of $244.51