David K. Liberati, Attorney at Law, for claimants.
Nancy J. Aliff, Attorney at Law, for respondent.


On September 4, 1987, claimant Helen Hanson was walking across the
Aetnaville Bridge in
Wheeling, Ohio County. As she proceeded down the steps located at end of
the bridge, she lost
her balance and fell. As a result of the mishap, claimant Helen Hanson
broke her foot. Claimant
seeks $9,500.00 for medical expenses, loss of work, and paid and

Claimants contend that the absence of a handrail and the disrepair of
the steps constitutes
negligence on the part of respondent. Respondent contends that it did
not have notice of the
hazardous condition.

Claimant Helen Hanson testified that she had not descended these steps
in forty years.
Although she drove over the bridge frequently, she had not observed the
disrepair of the steps.
She explained that she was walking across the bridge on the day of this
incident because she had
experienced difficulty getting her car started. She and a friend had
been shopping at the nearby
Kroger Supermarket. After purchasing the gas, claimant's vehicle failed
to start, and she left it at
the gas station. She walked across the bridge because that was the
easiest route to reach her
home. Her friend remained with the groceries in the vehicle. She
estimated that it was
approximately a one-half mile walk from the gas station to her home.

Claimant Helen Hanson described the spot on the steps where she feel as
being "... like a gully
in it." She was unable to get up after her fall and was assisted by some
passing motorists. Her
foot was broken in three places, and she was required to wear a cast
from September 4, 1987
to November 11, 1987. She did not suffer lost wages as she is retired.
However, claimant
Howard Hanson took a week off from his employment to stay home to assist
his wife. To this
day, claimant experiences pain as a result of her injury.

Both Dorothy Joyce, who accompanied Helen Hanson in her vehicle, and
claimant Howard
Hanson testified that the step area was overgrown with weeds and grass.
During the summers,
claimant Howard Hanson observed that a group of teenagers employed by
the State normally
cleared the weeds away from the steps.

Alan Behr, District 6 Bridge Engineer, testified that prior to
September 4, 1987, he was not
familiar with the steps where this incident occurred. The complaint made
on September 9, 1987,
regarding the Hanson incident was the first complaint which he had
received about the area.
Alan Behr explained that the Aetnaville Bridge is inspected at least
every two years and that it
had been inspected in the two years preceding this incident. The
inspectors do not inspect steps.

This Court has held in the past that the State is negligent for failing
to discover and correct a
hazard on a bridge which a casual inspection would have revealed.
Randall vs. Dept. of
Highways, 8 Ct.Cl. 147 (1970). Nicola vs. Dept. of Highways, (Opinion
issued January 6,
1987). For this reason, the Court is disposed to make an award in the
amount of $2,500.00.

Award of $2,500.00