West Virginia Legislative Claims Commission

Volume Number: 29
Opinion Issued February 14, 2013
     Claimant appeared pro se.
     Michael J. Folio, Attorney at Law, for Respondent.
      Claimant, Ella Watson, brought this action for vehicle damage which occurred when her 2002 Ford Escort struck ice while traveling along W. Va. Route 10 in Salt Rock, Cabell County, which resulted in her vehicle leaving the roadway and rolling down an embankment. W. Va. Route 10 is a public road maintained by Respondent. The Court is of the opinion to make an award in this claim for the reasons more fully stated below. The incident giving rise to this claim occurred at approximately 6:30 a.m. on December 1, 2009. Claimant testified that while she was driving from her home to work she encountered a sharp turn and recalled that ice had built up so badly that it was impossible to avoid sliding uncontrollably. Claimant stated that in her opinion the ice had accumulated because trash and other debris in the ditch line impeded the flow of water from the night before and had frozen along the roadway. Claimant testified that Respondent had been notified on prior occasions that the condition along the ditch line presented a potential hazard to the public. As a result of coming into contact with the ice, Claimant’s vehicle exited the roadway and rolled down an embankment. Claimant testified that there was no guardrail present along the stretch of roadway. Claimant carried only liability insurance at the time of the incident. As proof of her damages, Claimant submitted, and the Court took notice of the NADA vehicle value totaling. $4,325.00. Claimant now seeks the total value of her vehicle.
      The position of Respondent is that it did not have actual or constructive notice of the icy condition along W. Va. Route 10 on the date of the incident.
      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 the Respondent liable for road defects of this type, the Claimant must prove that the 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 actual notice of the condition of the ditch line prior to the build of ice along the roadway. Given the location of the incident, the Court finds that Respondent had a duty to adequately maintain the ditch line so as to prevent unnatural ice buildup. This is especially true since Respondent has not installed guardrails along the stretch of roadway in question.
      It is the opinion of the Court of Claims that Claimant should be awarded the sum of $4,325.00.
      Award of $4,325.00.

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