Paul K. Reese, Attorney at Law, for claimant.
Nancy J. Aliff, Attorney at Law, for respondent.


Claimant brought this action as administrator of his wife's estate. His
wife, Karen M. Friend,
died in an accident which occurred on Labor Day weekend in 1983. She was
operating her
vehicle, a Ford Pinto, on Local Service Route 2 in Pendleton County,
when the vehicle slid off
the road and rolled down a bank. Both Karen Friend and a passenger,
Deborah Reall, were
thrown from the vehicle. Mrs. Friend died from the injuries which she

Claimant alleges that the proximate cause of the accident was the
condition of Route 2,
basically a one-way dirt road, proceeding through a camping and fishing
area along the South
Branch of the Potomac River. More specifically, claimant contends that
the road wa snot
sufficiently wide; that the road was not marked or delineated; and that
the respondent was
aware of the dangerous condition of the road.

Respondent contends that Route 2 at the location of the accident is
basically a dirt road which
was taken into the State road system in 1933. It is an unimproved, dirt
road leading to a park
known as the Big Bend Campground. Respondent alleges that the proximate
cause of the
accident was not the negligence of the respondent, but was the
negligence of the driver of the

The facts of the claim are as follows: On September 2, 1983, during
Labor Day weekend,
claimant's wife, their son, and two friends agreed to go on a fishing
trip to Big Bend Campground
in West Virginia. They took two vehicles, one of which was a camper
truck, and one of which
was Karen Friend's Ford Pinto. They left from their homes in Garrett
County, Maryland at
approximately 5:00 p.m. Mrs. Friend and her passenger, Deborah Reall,
proceeded in the Ford
Pinto ahead of claimant, who was riding with Stanley McCrobie and the
Friends' son, Joe, to
Route 2, to look for an areas where the camper truck could be parked
along the river bank. It
was approximately 9:00 p.m. and dark. As Mrs. Friend drove along the
dirt road, the right, front
tire of the automobile went off the surface of the road. She attempted
to drive back onto the
road when the rear, right tire also went off the road. The driver was
still attempting to drive the
vehicle back onto the orad when the vehicle struck something. According
to the testimony of
Deborah Reall, "the car was sliding but she (Mrs. Friend) was attempting
to negotiate it and
bring it back up onto the roadway. The car kind of hung and just sent
along 'til the weight pulled
it and it started to turn and it rolled down over the hill." The vehicle
travelled approximately 57
feet on the edge of the road before it actually went over the hill. Mrs.
Friend had not travelled
this road prior to the date of the accident herein. She was unfamiliar
with the road. Her
passenger, Deborah Reall, had been on the road previously. She testified
that she told Karen
Friend that "this road is very narrow and twisting, and she (Mrs. Friend
) said, 'We'll just go very
slow then,' and that's what we did."

Deborah Reall further testified that the vehicle was travelling at
about 15 miles per hour. They
were driving up a slight incline so the vehicle's headlights were
pointing up and not on the road
surface. The road narrowed at the accident site.

Measurements taken by the investigating officer, Trooper Richard D.
Gillespie, a member of
the Department of Public Safety, revealed that the road was 12 feet, 10
inches at the point the
vehicle went off the road. The vehicle travelled 57 feet, 5 inches
according to tire tracks along
the edge of the road before it rolled over the hill.

William Woodrow Hartman, Maintenance Supervisor for District 8, which
Pendleton County, testified that routine maintenance of Route 2 on the
dirt section consisted of
"taking a grader, pull the ditches, clean out culverts so that you have
proper drainage on them,
putting a shape back into the orad, filling up the potholes and also
stabilizing the road, tailgating
material on it so you'll have something to grade so you can fill the
potholes." This maintenance
was performed twice a year.

Testimony and photographic evidence revealed signs at approximately
2/10 of a mile from the
site of the accident. One sign was metal and indicated "Unimproved One
Lane Road Next 4
Miles," and the other sign was wooden and indicated "CAUTION Road
Narrow, Steep,
Hazardous and Subject to Flooding, Drive with Care ... ." The signs were
in place on the date of
this accident according to Mr. Hartman.

There was also testimony concerning a hazard paddle placed to the edge
of the road where
the decedent's vehicle went off the road. The testimony did not provide
a specific point in time
when the paddle was placed there by respondent, but it was after the
accident herein. The road
varied in width from as wide as 14 feet, 7 inches to as narrow as 11
feet, 5 inches. There is no
dispute that the road was a narrow, dirt road. In fact, respondent's
witness, Claude Blake,
testified, "It is a very hazardous treacherous, one lane road, ... ." No
one at the hearing disputed
this fact.

The Court has reviewed the testimony and evidence in this claim. The
scene of the accident
was a narrow, dirt road similar to many local service roads in West
Virginia. The average daily
traffic count was 80 during 1983. This road leads to a camping and
fishing area used more in the
warmer months of the year and more frequently on weekends. The
respondent had placed a
warning sign for the travelling public as to the character of the road.
i.e., "Unimproved One
Lane Road Next 4 Miles." Another sign erected by an agency other than
respondent also
warned the travelling public as to the character of the road. It is the
opinion of the Court that the
respondent acted in a responsible manner in posting the metal sign. The
respondent maintained
Route 2 as it would any other local service road. The maintenance
performed was adequate in
light of the nature of the road, i.e., an access road to fishing and
camping areas. For these
reasons, the Court finds that respondent was not negligent in its
maintenance of Local Service
Route 2.

The Court is not unmindful of the tragedy of this accident; however,
the Court is of the opinion
to the does disallow the claim.

Claim disallowed.