OPINION ISSUED JANUARY 28, 2000
DIVISION OF HIGHWAYS
Claimant appeared pro se.
Andrew F. Tarr, Attorneyat Law, for respondent.
Claimant brought this action for damage sustained when a tree
fell onto his property on County Route 68/4, Shelby Road, in
Morgantown.Claimant originally filed a claim with two separate
incidents. At the October 15, 1999, hearing the two separate
claims were bifurcated, with one claim styled CC-99-325a and the
present claim styled CC-99-325b. County Route 68/4, Shelby Road,
is a road maintained by respondent in Monongalia 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 28,
1999. Claimant resides on County Route 68/4 which is a third
priority paved road with a ten foot road surface. At the location
in question, respondent has a thirty feet right of way, fifteen
feet from the center of the road. Across the road from claimant's
residence, there were several large rotten trees, about fifteen to
eighteen inches in diameter, leaning towards his residence. On two
occasions in the months prior the incident, claimant went to
respondent's Monongalia office to inform it about the hazard that
the trees potentially posed to travelers on County Route 68/4 as
well as to his residence. On another occasion, claimant informed
several of respondent's employees, who were working in the area, of
his concerns. During the night in question, a storm caused one of
the large rotten trees to fall onto claimant's property. The
falling tree destroyed a handicap ramp claimant had installed onto
his house, sheared off a side-view mirror on his van, and destroyed
a Blue Spruce tree and four rose bushes.
Clamant sustained a loss in the sum of $559.88 as a result of the
rotten tree falling onto his property. The handicap ramp was
covered under claimant's homeowner insurance policy for which he
was responsible for the deductible feature of $250.00. While
claimant had insurance coverage for his vehicle, he was responsible
for the damage because the loss sustained to the vehicle, in the
amount of $209.88, was the less than the deductible feature of
$500.00. In addition, the four rose bushes were valued at $10.00
each. The Court estimates the value of the Blue Spruce tree at
$60.00 based upon inquiries made of several tree nurseries in the
The position of respondent was that it did not have notice of the condition of the large trees across from claimant's residence
on County Route 68/4. Respondent asserted that a review of its
records indicated that it had received no complaints regarding the
condition of County Route 68/4. According to respondent's daily
work records, employees were dispatched to the area in question as
soon as it learned of the tree falling onto claimant's property.
In the future, respondent anticipates doing further work when the
necessary equipment is available.
The Court has previously held that when the evidence indicates
that respondent has notice of a hazard, such as a large rotten
tree, and a reasonable opportunity to remove it, respondent may be
held liable. Jones v. Division of Highways, 21 Ct. Cl. 445 (1995).
In the present claim, the evidence adduced at the October 15,
1999, hearing established that respondent had notice regarding the
condition of the trees across from claimant's property on County
Route 68/4. The Court is of the opinion that respondent's failure
to act after claimant personally gave notice to respondent about
the particular tree across from his property constituted negligence
for which claimant may recover.
In view of the foregoing, the Court is of the opinion to and
does make an award to the claimant in the amount of $559.88.
Award of $559.88.