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West Virginia Court of Claims

Volume Number: 29
Opinion Issued January 10, 2012
     Claimant appeared pro se.
     Andrew F. Tarr, Attorney at Law, for Respondent.
      Claimant brought this action for vehicle damage which occurred while he was driving his 1997 Saturn SW2. Claimant’s vehicle struck a large hole while traveling along W. Va. Route 2 near Moundsville, Marshall County. W. Va. Route 2 is a public road maintained by Respondent. The Court believes that Claimant should receive an award in this claim for reasons more fully stated below.
      The incident giving rise to this claim occurred at approximately 12:30 p.m. on March 8, 2010. W. Va. Route 2 is a four-lane road running through the center of Moundsville. Claimant testified that he was approaching the intersection of Fifth and Route 2 while riding in the right lane when the vehicle hit a massive hole measuring approximately three feet wide by eight inches deep. As a result, the Claimant’s vehicle sustained a cracked frame which rendered the vehicle totaled. Claimant paid $2,000.00 for the vehicle approximately two months before the incident. Shortly after the incident Claimant sold the vehicle as salvage for $200.00; therefore, Claimant’s total loss amounts to $1,800.00. Claimant carried only liability insurance on the vehicle at the time of the incident.
      The position of the Respondent is that it did not have actual or constructive notice of the pothole in question. Respondent’s witness, Rick Poe, testified that crews had done patch work along this roadway previously, but that they did not recall seeing the pothole that caused Claimant’s damage.
      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 v. 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 amount of time to take corrective action. Pritt v. Dep’t of Highways, 16 Ct. Cl. 8 (1985); Chapman v. Dep’t of Highways, 16 Ct. Cl. 103 (1986).
      In the instant case, the Court is of the opinion that Respondent had, at the least, constructive notice of the hole that caused damage to Claimant’s vehicle. Given the apparent size of the hole and its location on the main travel portion of a heavily traveled road leads the Court to conclude that Respondent was negligent. Thus, Claimant may make a recovery for the damage to his vehicle.
      It is the opinion of the Court of Claims that the Claimant should be awarded the sum of $1,800.00.
      Award of $1,800.00.

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