West Virginia Legislative Claims Commission

Volume Number: 29
Opinion Issued February 14, 2013
     Claimant appeared pro se.
     Andrew F. Tarr, Attorney at Law, for Respondent.
      Claimant, Frank Larson, brought this action for vehicle damage which occurred when his 1997 Ford Ranger was allegedly subjected to road conditions which caused his tires to rapidly wear. The road in question is designated W. Va. Route 14, which is located in Slate, Wood County. W. Va. Route 14 is a public road maintained by Respondent. The Court is of the opinion to make an award in this claim for the reasons more fully stated below.
      The incident giving rise to this claim occurred over a period of three months beginning on June 6, 2011, when Claimant purchased a new set of tires containing a 50,000 mile warranty. Claimant testified that he is meticulous about maintaining his vehicle and regularly rotates his tires every 3,000 miles to ensure that the tire warranty is not voided. Claimant stated that months of traveling over a section of road which contained an old slip has caused his tires to wear at a rate approximately double that of wear incurred while traveling normal road conditions. In fact, over a three month period, traveling approximately 2,000 miles a month, his tires have a tread life of approximately 25,000 miles remaining on the tires. As a result of the wear and tear on Claimant’s vehicle, Claimant was forced to pay for an alignment and a new set of tires, which are the subject of this claim. The total cost of the alignment and tires totals $474.98.
      The position of Respondent is that Route 14 is a high priority roadway which does contain a slip that has been patched over a number of years. Respondent did not perceive the area to be a risk to the traveling public.
      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 the Respondent liable for road defects of this type, the Claimant must prove that the 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 that the stretch of roadway containing an old and uncorrected slip could cause unnatural wear and tear to vehicles. Given the accelerated rate of wear on Claimant’s tires, the Court finds that the road condition was the cause of the damage; therefore, Claimant may make a recovery in the amount claimed.
      It is the opinion of the Court of Claims that Claimant should be awarded the sum of $474.98.
      Award of $474.98.

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