(CC-84-116 & CC-84-117)

Richard W. Cardot, Attorney at Law, for claimants.
Nancy J. Aliff, Attorney at Law, for respondent.


The claims of Jimmie A. and Eula R. Currence and Loren and Rella
Currence were
consolidated for the purpose of hearing. A motion to bifurcate the
hearing was sustained by the
Court. The claims were heard as to the matter of liability only. On June
13, 1982, claimants
Jimmie Currence and Loren Currence were traveling in a 1978 Dodge van
from their home in
Mabie, West Virginia, toward Buckhannon, West Virginia, on U.S. Route
33. At Excelsior,
West Virginia, the claimants were involved in an accident when another
van, traveling eastbound
on U.S. Route 33, hydroplaned on a large accumulation of water on the
highway, crossing the
water into the westbound lane of traffic into the van in which claimants
were traveling. In the
ensuing accident, the van in which claimants were riding was knocked on
its side and slid down
the highway, resulting in the injuries out of which these claims arose.

Claimant, Loren Currence, testified that he was the operator of the
Dodge van on the date of
the accident. He indicated that the sun was shining and that the road
was dry. He and his
brother, Jimmie Currence, who was seated in the right front passenger
seat, were traveling to
Buckhannon, West Virginia, to perform gospel music at a church. He
testified that he had
observed water in the road at the accident site on previous occasions.
He stated that when he
came around a slight curve, the van "came and hydroplaned in the water
and struck us head-on...
I was coming in my lane and he crossed, when he hit the water he lost
control of his van and hit
us head-on." It was later determined that Truman H. Daniels was the
operator of the van which
hydroplaned and struck the van operated by Loren Currence.

Marvin G. Murphy, a civil engineer with the respondent, testified that
the respondent had
performed work in the area in which the accident occurred. A property
owner, Mr. Baxa, had
complained about water flowing onto his property from U.S. Route 33. In
response to his claim,
the respondent re-ditched the under side, or westbound side, of U.S.
Route 33, cleaned the
ditch and installed a pipe through a driveway, and constructed a ditch
into a natural drain below
or next to Mr. Baxa's barn. This work was performed to solve a problem
of drainage or water
on the Baxa property. This work was performed in September 1980. Mr.
Murphy also testified
that there were no further water problems at this location (the Baxa
property) until the date of
the accident involving the claimants. Upon questioning as to the reason
for the water remaining
on the highway on the date of the accident, Mr. Murphy stated that
"(T)he water should not
have remained on the highway unless there was an obstruction or
something that blocked the
pipe.' He also testified that there was no particular schedule for
inspecting and cleaning drainage
structures for a particular area.

Wayne J. Simmons, a former U.S. Postal Service Rural Route Carrier,
testified that he carried
the mail through the area of Excelsior, Upshur County, for twelve years.
He was carrying the
mail prior to June 13, 1982, the date of the accident. He testified that
water on the road was so
bad that the U. S. Postal Service had to have three people move their
mail boxes approximately
fifty feet from where they had been. He placed the area of the water
problem on photographs
as being the area of the pooled water which is the subject of this
claim. He also testified that
"there would be it looked like three to four inches of water there every
time you had a hard rain.'
He also testified that he had reported, to the respondent, water on the
road in the area on two
occasions prior to the accident, and on one of these he called the
Department of Highways
office in Buckhannon, West Virginia.

Truman H. Daniels, the driver of the van which struck the van in which
the claimants were
traveling, was not present at the hearing, nor did either party offer
his testimony at the hearing.

A careful review of the evidence reveals that U.S. Route 33 experienced
other drainage
problems at the site of the accident. Although the respondent had
performed maintenance for
water problems, the problem corrected was to solve excess water on the
property of an
adjacent land owner. As the pool of water which caused the accident,
which is the subject of
this claim, created a hazard for the traveling public, the Court is
disposed to find that the
respondent is liable to the claimants for the injuries which they each
sustained as a result of the
accident. The preponderance of the evidence is in favor of the claimants.

The Court directs the parties to inform the clerk when these claims may
be scheduled for a
hearing on the question of damages.