David B. Thomas, Attorney at Law, for claimant.
Nancy J. Aliff, Attorney at Law, for respondent.


On October 12, 1985, at approximately 2:00 a.m., claimant's insured,
George Guthrie, was
operating his 1983 Cadillac El Dorado on Secondary Route 81 in the
vicinity of Mammoth,
Kanawha County. As he approached a bridge, he observed a motorcycle
coming toward his
vehicle in the opposite direction. He drove to the right off of the
paved portion of the road. As
he came back onto the road and drove onto the bridge, his vehicle left
the bridge, turned over,
and landed in Kelly's Creek. Claimant seeks $15,440.40. This amount
includes claimants'
insured's $200.00 deductible, his hospital bills for personal injuries
which resulted from the
accident, and damage to the automobile.

Claimant's insured testified that he was returning to his home from a
private residence. He was
travelling in the direction of Route 60. It was dark, but clear. He
observed no street lights and
few other lights. Prior to the date of this incident, he had not driven
on this particular route.
However, he had travelled over this particular bridge three times
earlier on the evening of the

Claimant explained that as one enters the bridge from both ends, the
ends may be compared
to an "S." When he first observed the motorcycle, he felt that it was
going to have contact with
the left fender of his vehicle, and he drove his vehicle off of the
road. He stated that it was a
"swiveling effect." He returned to the road after the motorcycle had
passed his vehicle. He was
attempting to line his vehicle up with what he assumed was the center of
the bridge. Thereupon,
the left front wheel of claimant's vehicle went off of the highway, and
the vehicle ended up in the

Corporal George F. Bearfield was the investigating officer. He arrived
at the scene at 2:26
a.m. He testified that there was a dangerous curve before the bridge.
There were no signs
indicating the narrowing of the road. The guardrail at the upper end of
the bridge was down at
the time of this incident. Although he did not observe Mr. Guthrie
operating his automobile, he
did write "exceeding safe speed" as a contributing circumstance on the
accident report which he
had prepared in his investigation of the accident. He testified that "In
looking at the accident, I
considered it to be that Mr. Guthrie was not familiar with the road, the
oncoming traffic blinded
him and he was just moving too fast for the road. It's just the type of
road you need to slow
down on. If you're familiar with it, you need to slow down, and with
oncoming traffic, he needed
to slow down even more but, you know, I didn't see any skid marks so I'm
saying, well, he was
running a little too fast."

Claude Blake, Chief Investigator for respondent, testified that this is
a one-lane bridge and the
road follows the creek. He stated that the speed limit was 35 miles per
hour in this area at the
time of the incident.

Steve Campbell, bridge engineer for respondent, checked respondent's
records and found no
record of complaints for this area prior to October 12, 1985. This
bridge is inspected every two
years. It is standard practice of the respondent to have hazard paddles
on all four corners of a
bridge, but there were only two paddles located on the driver's right
side of the bridge at the
time of the incident. The hazard paddles were not up on the left corners
of the bridge.

After carefully reviewing the evidence, the Court is of the opinion
that the failure on the part of
the respondent to maintain the guardrail and hazard paddles on the
bridge was not the proximate
cause of this accident. It is the opinion of the Court that the
insured's speed was the proximate
cause of this accident. For this reason, the claim must be denied.

Claim disallowed.