David N. Dittmar and James T. Steele, Attorneys at Law, for claimants.
Nancy J. Aliff, Attorney at Law, for respondent.


On August 30, 1982, at about 2:20 p.m., claimant Mary L. Staffileno,
age 20, was operating a
1978 Chevette titled in the name of her father, claimant Dominic
Staffileno, in a northerly
direction on State Route 88, from West Liberty to Bethany, in Brooke
County, on her way
home to Wellsburg. She was then a commuting student at West Liberty
State College and held
part-time employment as a clerk in a dress shop at Steubenville, Ohio.
The weather was clear
and dry. The highway was two-lane asphalt with many hills and curves.
Descending a hill, and
after rounding a sharp curve to her left, and approaching a right turn
into a one-lane bridge, at a
speed she estimated at 20 to 25 miles per hour, she encountered gravel
on the highway as she
was passing an oncoming vehicle. Her further account of the incident was
that her car skidded
on the gravel, went completely off the paved surface to the berm on her
right, then back across
the highway and nosed into a ditch and embankment on her left. She
suffered no serious or
permanent injury, suffering only headaches and pain in her right arm for
several weeks. The
automobile, recently purchased for $2,500.00, was damaged beyond
economical repair.
Claimant Dominic Staffileno seeks an award of $3,000.00. Claimant Mary
L. Staffileno seeks
an award of $2,000.00. Claimants alleged that respondent Department of
Highways was
responsible for the presence of the gravel on the highway and failed to
warn the claimants, thus
causing the accident.

The evidence showed that a crew of respondent was cleaning the ditch on
the right side of the
highway on that day; that the work had been done, in the area where the
gravel was, earlier that
same day. The work is known as "pulling ditches". Accumulations of
material in drainage ditches
is pulled from the ditch, by a grader, to the berm or highway. It is
then scooped up by an
endloader and hauled away in trucks. The amount of residue, or debris,
left on the highway
surface, is ordinarily minimal, and may vary with the condition of the
highway surface, skill of the
endloader operator, etc.

From the evidence, it appears that the material on the highway was, in
fact, placed there by
respondent's ditch cleaning operation. The evidence was conflicting as
to the amount of debris
on the highway. Brooke County Deputy Sheriff Michael H. Allman, who made
the accident
investigation, recalled a shallow cut in the highway surface and
described the debris as consisting
of gravel and dirt half an inch to an inch deep over a distance of ten
or twelve feet. John J.
Eckersberg, another Deputy Sheriff who came to the accident scene,
observed it with his fellow
officer, and recalled, 'As I remember the gravel patch, I don't believe
there was any more than -
it wasn't any more than two and a half feet in diameter, roughly.' James
Lawrence McCune, a
Safety Inspector for respondent, coincidentally arrived at the scene
shortly after the accident.
He testified that 'There was a light -- some light debris on the
northbound lane where some
work had been performed, but it was not uncommon for that type of
operation... It was just a
real light, sparse material lying on the road surface."

Claimant Mary L. Staffileno testified that, before she encountered the
debris, where her
accident occurred, she had passed no flagman or warning sign. Generally,
the function of
flagmen, in such a ditch cleaning operation, is to help motorists safely
pass the immediate work
site where equipment in use is denying normal use of a lane of the
highway. The flagmen are,
therefore, just ahead of, and just behind, the equipment. At the time of
the accident, the
ditch-cleaning operation had progressed northerly, across the bridge,
and a substantial distance
out of sight of the accident scene. Signs are used to warn of a
construction area being entered.
Asked whether he had observed what signs were present, Safety Inspector
McCune testified
that to the best of his recollection there was a Men Working sign, with
a Flagman Ahead sign
following that approximately three to five hundred feet. However, no
witness testified that any
such sign was placed where it could have been seen or passed by claimant
Mary L. Staffileno
before encountering the debris on the highway. Respondent's flagman,
William Gillies, south of
the working equipment, testified that the signs, for northbound traffic,
were five to six hundred
feet behind him. Signs are moved, as the flagmen move, with the progress
of the work.
The Court is not satisfied that, by a preponderance of the evidence,
the respondent is guilty of
negligence. The quantity of debris on the highway, from the
ditch-cleaning operation, does not
appear to have been excessive, nor such as to have imposed a duty upon
the respondent to
warn motorists of its presence. Geraldine May McCarthy, Admin. of the
Estate of Robert
Eugene McCarthy v. Dept. of Highways, 12 Ct.Cl. 139 (1978).
Claim disallowed.