West Virginia Legislative Claims Commission

Volume Number: 29
Opinion Issued February 14, 2013
     Claimant appeared pro se.
     Andrew F. Tarr, Attorney at Law, for Respondent.
      Claimant brought this action for vehicle damage which occurred when her 1999 Ford Explorer struck a series of large holes while traveling along Roberts Ridge Road near Moundsville, Marshall County. Roberts Ridge Road 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 10:30 p.m. on January 24, 2012. Claimant testified that Roberts Ridge Road is the only means of ingress and egress from her home. Claimant stated that she had contacted Respondent on numerous occasions to fix the roadway, but to no avail. As a result of Claimant’s contact with the hole, Claimant’s vehicle sustained damage to its ball joints, wheel bearing, and rotors in the amount of $656.53. Claimant’s insurance policy, at the time of the incident, only provided liability insurance on her vehicle.
      The position of Respondent is that it did not have actual or constructive notice of the holes along Roberts Ridge Ridge on the date of the incident. However, James A. Mitcham, Assistant County Administrator for Ohio County, testified that there are numerous oil and gas wells in the area, and the trucks associated with these oil and gas installations are causing a lot of damage to the roadways.
      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, at the least, constructive notice of the holes in the roadway, which the Claimant’s vehicle struck, and that the holes presented a hazard to the traveling public. Since there were numerous holes on this road, and since Respondent has admitted to this Court that it was aware of the deleterious effect caused by the heavy truck hauling linked to the increased oil and gas production has had on the State’s roads, the Court finds that Respondent was negligent. Thus, Claimant may make a recovery for the damage to her vehicle.
      It is the opinion of the Court of Claims that Claimant should be awarded the sum of $656.53.
      Award of $656.53.

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