West Virginia Legislative Claims Commission

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 his1995 Chevrolet Caprice. Claimant’s vehicle struck a large hole located on a bridge while traveling along W. Va. Route 105 near Weirton, Hancock County. W. Va. Route 105 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 10:30 p.m. on March 16, 2011. W. Va. Route 105 is a two-lane road with painted white edge lines and a center line. Claimant testified that the conditions on the date of the incident were dark and clear. The hole is located in the main travel portion of the bridge and is so severe that rebar was visible through the twenty-four inch hole. Claimant testified that his vehicle went into the hole and he immediately drove to the side of the road to replace a tire. As a result of the incident, the Claimant’s vehicle sustained damage to its tires and wheels in the amount of $549.28. Claimant carried liability insurance at the time of the incident.
      The position of the Respondent is that it did not have actual or constructive notice of the conditions on the bridge in question, but a witness for Respondent testified that the poor condition of bridges in the area will be an ongoing issue in the future. Respondent’s witness stated that Respondent just does not have the funds to make all necessary repairs.
      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 poor condition of the bridge and roadway. 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, 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 $549.28.
      Award of $549.28.

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