OPINION ISSUED JUNE 8, 2000
STEVEN L. BRAITHWAITE
DIVISION OF HIGHWAYS
Claimant appeared pro se.
Andrew F. Tarr, Attorney at Law, for respondent.
Claimant brought this action for vehicle damage sustained when
his wife was driving his vehicle southbound on Rock Cliff Drive
toward Martinsburg and the vehicle struck a hole in the road
surface.At the April 20, 2000, hearing, the Court amended the
style of the claim to reflect the fact Mr. Braithwaite was the only
owner of the vehicle. Rock Cliff Drive is a road maintained by
respondent in Berkeley 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 September
23, 1999, at approximately 9:00 a.m. On the clear morning in
question, claimant's wife, Brenda L. Braithwaite, was driving
claimant's 1995 Ford Windstar southbound on Rock Cliff Drive at a
speed of thirty to thirty-five miles per hour toward claimant's
place of employment. Mr. Braithwaite and his grandson were
passengers in the vehicle at the time. Rock Cliff Drive is a
two-lane asphalt road with a speed limit of forty five miles per
hour. About a block after Ms. Braithwaite drove across the I-81
overpass bridge and entered into a curve in the road, the vehicle
struck a four to six inch hole on the edge of the pavement that had
deteriorated into the white line indicating the edge of the road
surface. The impact burst the vehicle's passenger side front tire
and bent the wheel rim. Ms. Braithwaite then proceeded to the
nearby state road shed and informed respondent of the incident.
According to Ms. Braithwaite, she was informed by respondent's
employees at the state road shed that they were aware of the hole,
but had not repaired it. Since claimant has a deductible feature
of $500.00, he was personally responsible for the sustained loss of
$409.84, the lower of the estimates provided to the Court.
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 this present claim, the evidence adduced at the April 20,
2000, hearing established that respondent had actual notice of the
hole on Rock Cliff Drive in Berkeley County and failed to assure the safety of the traveling public. Consequently, there is
sufficient evidence of negligence 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 make an award
in this claim.
Award of $409.84.