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West Virginia Court of Claims

Volume Number: 29
Opinion Issued January 10, 2012
     Claimants appeared pro se.
     Andrew F. Tarr, Attorney at Law, for Respondent.
      Claimant Natasha Stephens brought this action for vehicle damage, which occurred while she was driving her 2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser. Claimant struck a series of holes while traveling along Camden Avenue, designated as W. Va. Route 95 near Parkersburg, Wood County. W. Va. Route 95 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 1:00 p.m. on February 3, 2011. W. Va. Route 95 is a four-lane paved road separated by a grass median. Claimant testified that although it was the middle of winter at the time of the incident, there was no snow or ice accumulation. The holes were located in the main travel portion of the road and there were no warning signs or hazard paddles to alert drivers of the road conditions. Claimant stated that she knew the holes were there; however, she could not steer around the holes on this particular occasion. As a result, the Claimants’ vehicle sustained damage to the front passenger wheel in the amount of $675.54. Claimants had liability insurance only on the date of this incident.
      The position of the Respondent is that it did not have actual or constructive notice of the holes along W. Va. Route 95.
      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 holes which Claimants’ vehicle struck, and that hole presented a hazard to the traveling public. The size of the holes and their location on the travel portion of the road leads the Court to conclude that Respondent was negligent. Thus, Claimants may make a recovery for the damage to their vehicle.
      It is the opinion of the Court of Claims that the Claimants should be awarded the sum of $675.54.
      Award of $675.54.

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