OPINION ISSUED OCTOBER 13, 2000
LEONARD BRENT NEWSOME
DIVISION OF HIGHWAYS
Claimant appeared pro se.
Xueyan Zhang, Attorney at Law, for respondent.
Claimant brought this action for vehicle, boat and
boat-trailer damage sustained when the axle of his boat-trailer was
struck by a loose board when he was driving across a wooden bridge
on State Secondary Route 3/5 in Breeden. State Secondary Route
3/5, at this location, is a road maintained by respondent in Mingo
County. The Court is of the opinion to make an award in this claim
for the reasons more fully set forth below.
The incident giving rise to this claim occurred on July 8,
1999, at approximately 8:30 p.m. At dusk on the evening in
question, Mr. Newsome, his wife Crystal Newsome, and his son were
traveling from the lake at East Lynn to their residence in Lenore.
They were proceeding across a wooden bridge on State Secondary
Route 3/5 in Breeden, about two miles from the Wayne County line.
The wooden overlay of the bridge consists of two-inch thick by
six-inch wide boards that are sixteen feet long and these are
anchored to the structure by four and one-half inch nails. Mr.
Newsome was aware that the wooden bridge was often in a state of
disrepair. A resident of the area and Mr. Newsome's mother-in-law,
Geraldine Marcum, testified that the bridge is usually in a state
of disrepair because of coal truck traffic.
As Mr. Newsome slowly drove his 1989 Toyota Pick-up truck
across the bridge, one of the truck's back tires went over a loose
board and raised it up causing it to strike the axle of the
boat-trailer which he was hauling. Both the truck and the
boat-trailer were stopped suddenly. The impact broke the back
axle, damaged the boat, damaged the motor attachments, bent the
propeller on the motor of the boat, and damaged the truck's bumper.
The boat-trailer was determined to be non-repairable. Since Mr.
Newsome was insured under a liability only motor vehicle insurance
policy, he was responsible for the sustained loss estimated in the
amount of $1,114.43.The position of respondent is that it did
not have notice of the condition of the wooden bridge on State
Secondary Rout 3/5 in Mingo County. According to Transportation
Worker II Cecil Collins, all of the remaining wooden bridges in
Mingo County are being replaced by pre-fabricated bridges.
Respondent's standard operating procedure for maintenance of these
remaining wooden bridges is to make a response immediately after
a complaint is filed. After each winter, these wooden bridges are
inspected. Mr. Collins acknowledged that the remaining wooden bridges are a constant problem because of climate conditions and
the structures themselves. Also, Mr. Collins acknowledged that he
has received legitimate complaints about the boards on the wooden
bridges. Further, Mr. Collins asserted that respondent had spent
many hours over a six month period on State Secondary Route 3/5,
but he was unable to determine if the wooden bridge in question had
been repaired during that time.
The well-established principle of law in West Virginia is that
the State is neither an insurer nor a guarantor of the safety of
travelers 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 of the defect and a reasonable time
to take corrective action. Chapman vs. Dept. of Highways, 16 Ct.
Cl. 103 (1986).
In the present claim, the evidence established that respondent
had actual notice of the condition of the wooden bridge on State
Secondary Route 3/5 in Mingo County. The Court is of the opinion
that the condition of the wooden bridge in question constituted a
hazardous condition and that respondent was negligent in its
maintenance of the bridge.
As for the loss sustained by the claimant, the Court has determined
the fair and reasonable value of the boat, boat-trailer and truck
bumper to be in the amount of $1,000.00, disregarding any salvage.
Consequently, there is sufficient evidence on the part of
respondent by which claimant may recover his sustained loss.
In accordance with the findings of fact and conclusions of law
stated herein above, the Court is of the opinion to and does make
an award to the claimant in the amount of $1,000.00.
Award of $1,000.00.