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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.
      Claimants brought this action for vehicle damage, which occurred while claimant Ronald Hambrick was driving his 2002 Toyota Avalon. Claimants’ vehicle struck a large bump while traveling along W. Va. Route 31 near Deerwalk, Wood County. W. Va. Route 31 is a public road maintained by Respondent. The Court believes that Claimants should receive an award in this claim for reasons more fully stated below.
      The incident giving rise to this claim occurred at approximately 10:30 p.m. on April 4, 2011. W. Va. Route 31 is a two-lane road with painted white edge lines and a center line. Claimant testified that it had been raining on the day in question, and water had accumulated along the roadway. The bump was located in the main travel portion of the road and a sign was present to alert drivers of a bump in the road. Claimant stated that he saw the sign, but the sign was too close to the bump in order to effectively brace for impact. Furthermore, Claimant states that the sign is located in the middle of a sharp curve that makes it impossible to read the sign in a safe amount of time. As a result, the Claimants’ vehicle sustained damage to its tires and wheels in the amount of $269.00. Claimants’ vehicle had insurance, which requires a $500.00 deduction; therefore, any award to Claimants is limited to the amount of the deduction.
      The position of the Respondent is that it did not have actual or constructive notice that the sign was not properly placed at a safe distance. Furthermore, Respondent’s witness maintains that the sign is visible and provides an adequate warning to drivers.
      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 improperly placed sign, and that the deep depression in the road presented a hazard to the traveling public. The size of the depression and its 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 $269.00.
      Award of $269.00.

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