West Virginia Legislative Claims Commission

Volume Number: 29
Category(s): BRIDGES
Opinion Issued January 10, 2012
     Claimant appeared pro se.
     Andrew F. Tarr, Attorney at Law, for Respondent.
      Claimant brought this action for vehicle damage which occurred while she was driving her 2003 Subaru Baja over a wooden bridge. Claimant struck a nail while traveling along Plum Road, designated as County Route 68/5 near Tunnelton, Preston County. County Route 68/5 is a public road maintained by Respondent. The Court believes that Claimant should receive an award in this claim for reasons more fully stated below.
      The incident giving rise to this claim occurred at approximately 4:30 p.m on September 5, 2010. County Route 68/5 is a narrow dirt road with a wooden bridge spanning one small portion. Claimant testified that she was visiting her sister and that this was the only route to get there. Claimant states that she does not like to visit her sister because the bridge along the route scares her due to its state of disrepair. The weather on the date of the incident was sunny. Claimant does not know the exact location of the nail that became lodged in her tire, but states that the bridge has many protruding nails. As a result, the Claimant’s vehicle sustained damage to one of its tires in the amount of $124.02. Claimant’s vehicle had liability insurance.
      The position of the Respondent is that it did not have actual or constructive notice of the condition of the bridge along County Route 68/5.
      The well-established principle of law in West Virginia is that the State is neither an insurer nor a guarantor of the safety of travelers upon its roads. Adkins v. Sims, 130 W.Va. 645, 46 S.E.2d 81 (1947). In order to hold Respondent liable for road defects of this type, Claimant must prove that Respondent had actual or constructive notice of the defect and a reasonable amount of time to take corrective action. Pritt v. Dep’t of Highways, 16 Ct. Cl. 8 (1985); Chapman v. Dep’t of Highways, 16 Ct. Cl. 103 (1986).
      In the instant case, the Court is of the opinion that Respondent had, at the least, constructive notice of the conditions of the wooden bridge where Claimant’s vehicle incurred damage from a nail. The deteriorated condition of the bridge deck presented a hazard to the traveling public. Given the serious state of disrepair and the length of time the bridge had been there, Respondent should have known about the deteriorating condition. Thus, Claimant may make a recovery for the damage to her vehicle.
      It is the opinion of the Court of Claims that the Claimant should be awarded the sum of $124.02.
      Award of $124.02.

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