OPINION ISSUED SEPTEMBER 8, 1999
RONALD E. BAILEY
DIVISION OF HIGHWAYS
Claimant appeared pro se.
Xueyan Zhang, Attorney at Law, for respondent.
Claimant brought this action for tire damage which occurred as
a result of an encounter with a road sign which had fallen from the
35th Street Bridge after repair work on the bridge had commenced
by the contractor for respondent. The 35th Street Bridge is
maintained by respondent in Kanawha County. The Court is of the
opinion to make an award for reasons more fully stated below.
The incident giving rise to this claim occurred on April 9,
1998, at about 12:00 p.m. Claimant was traveling on the 35th
Street Bridge ramp towards Kanawha City, in Kanawha County. The
day in question was cloudy and windy. There was little traffic on
the road. Claimant was traveling at about twenty-five to thirty
miles per hour across the bridge. Suddenly, an orange road sign
that was attached to the 35th Street Bridge fell off the bridge and
onto the road, fifteen to twenty feet in front of claimant. Unable
to avoid the fallen road sign, claimant's vehicle struck the fallen
road sign. By the time claimant got to the Kanawha City side of
the 35th Street Bridge, his right rear truck tire was flat. The
collision with the sign resulted in claimant's right rear truck
tire being slashed. Claimant incurred loss in the amount of $50.00.
Respondent denied liability for the accident in question.
Respondent acknowledges that claimant collided with a road sign
that had fallen from the 35th Street Bridge. However, respondent
introduced evidence that a contractor, Ahern & Associates, was
doing repair work on the 35th Street Bridge on the day in question
pursuant to a contract between respondent and the contractor. The
contract between respondent and contractor, Ahern & Associates,
provided for a "save harmless" clause. Respondent moved to dismiss
the claimant's claim at the hearing which motion was denied by the
Court based upon the "save harmless" clause. The contractor, Ahern
& Associates, executed a bond for this project upon which
respondent may recover any award made to claimant by this Court.
Respondent had employees at the construction site responsible
for supervising the actions of the contractor with regard to the
safety of the traveling public. Therefore, respondent had an
obligation and a duty to ascertain that the sign in question at the
construction site was secured in a proper manner such that it did
not pose a hazard to the traveling motorist using the 35th Street
Bridge. The failure of respondent's employees to supervise the
contractor in the proper placement of the sign constitutes negligence for which claimant may recover his loss.
Accordingly, the Court is of the opinion to and does make an
award in the amount of $50.00 to claimant.
Award of $50.00.