OPINION ISSUED JANUARY 19, 2001
DENNIS GENE SUTTLE
DIVISION OF HIGHWAYS
Claimant appeared pro se.
Andrew F. Tarr, Attorney at Law, for respondent.
Claimant brought this action for damage sustained to his
residence due to a drainage problem on County Route 15, locally
known as Old Scarbro Road, near Oak Hill. At this location, County
Route 15 is maintained by respondent in Fayette County. The Court
is of the opinion to deny this claim for the reasons more fully set
In 1989, claimant Dennis Gene Suttle bought his residence
along the southern side of County Route 15 near Oak Hill, Fayette
County. The residence has a width of fifteen feet and a length of
forty feet. Prior to the purchase of the property, claimant did
not have the property independently inspected. Jones creek is
located on the eastern side of the residence. In addition, Jones
creek intersects and flows under County Route 15 through a culvert
pipe. At this location, County Route 15 is a secondary asphalt
road with two ten feet lanes.
On June 15, 1992, claimant began to experience drainage
problems in the area when there were steady rains lasting three to
four days. He complained to an employee of the respondent and
tried to explain to him that there was a pipe beneath the road.
Respondent was not aware of the pipe beneath the road but finally
acknowledged that there may be a pipe located in a very deep part
of the ground beneath the road. Apparently nothing was done at
that time. Claimant continued to have water flowing into his yard
on occasion until June 2, 1998, when the water flowed from the
creek through his yard and actually flowed into his residence. It
then accumulated in a low spot in his yard, which is lower than the
level of the road surface. Sometime after June 2, 1998, the city
of Oak Hill installed a water line on his property. On August 16,
1998, water again backed up from the creek and flowed into his
residence. Apparently, the drain had become clogged and did not
function properly. Afterwards, claimant again reported the problem
to respondent. Claimant testified that he had done nothing to
initiate the clogging of the drain, including any excavation on the
property. The damage to the residence caused by the water which
came into the residence on August 16, 1998, was estimated to be
between $5,000.00 and $8,000.00.
The position of respondent is that it did not have notice of
the drainage problem on County Route 15 in Fayette County.
According to Crew Supervisor Michael R. Humphrey, he investigated the area looking for the culvert and when he found the inlet end,
he discovered that it had been covered with rock fill which limited
the ability of the pipe to accept water. He estimated the amount
of the material covering the pipe to be thirty to forty tons of
rock and he described the rocks as being sandstone with the size of
the rocks ranging from two to three feet long and a foot to two
feet wide. He then searched for and found the outlet end of the
pipe fifteen feet on the north side of the road. Mr. Humphrey
further testified that he was unaware of how or when the rocks at
the inlet end of the pipe got there. He asserted that respondent
was not responsible for the placement of the rocks. Thereafter on
August 31, 1998, respondent removed about ten feet of rock blocking
the drain and replaced the old eighteen-inch pipe with a thirty-six
inch pipe. This action taken by respondent remedied the water
problems claimant had been experiencing on his property.
The Court has held that respondent has a duty to provide
adequate drainage of surface water, and drainage devices must be
maintained in a reasonable state of repair. Haught vs. Dept. of
Highways, 13 Ct. Cl. 237 (1980). In claims of this nature, the
Court will examine whether respondent negligently failed to protect
a claimant's property from foreseeable damage. Rogers vs. Div. of
Highways, 21 Ct. Cl. 97 (1996).
In the present claim, the evidence failed to establish that
respondent was negligent in its maintenance of the drainage system
on County Route 15 in Fayette County. Once respondent had
knowledge of the drainage problem, it investigated the water
drainage provided for the area, and remedied the situation. While
the Court is sympathetic to claimant's plight, the fact remains
that there is no evidence of negligence on the part of respondent
upon which to base an award.
In accordance with the findings of fact and conclusions of law
stated herein above, the Court is of the opinion to and does deny