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Dumont v. Ohio Department of Transportation

Court of Claims of Ohio

July 21, 1992

ARLINE DUMONT, et al. Plaintiffs
v.
OHIO DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Defendant

S.C. reporter 10-1-2001

FRED J. SHOEMAKER Judge

William M. Mattes, Esq. Assistant Attorney General

Anne M. Valentine, Esq. Attorney for Plaintiffs

DECISION

Fred J. Shoemaker Judge

Plaintiffs, Arline and Gerald Dumont, allege that defendant, Ohio Department of Transportation, was negligent in the placement and maintenance of detour signs thereby creating a nuisance on I-70 in Franklin County, Ohio.

This action was heard on May 13, 1992, on the sole issue of liability. The court has duly considered the evidence and arguments of counsel and renders the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

On June 12, 1989, Arline Dumont was driving eastbound on I-70 in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband, Gerald Dumont, as a passenger in the front seat. Mrs. DuMont's initial plan was to enter I-270 north. However, it was closed during construction. Arline Dumont then excitedly asked her husband, who was asleep or napping at the time, what to do. He told her to go to the next exit on I-70 (Wilson Road) and then return to I-270 north. When approaching Wilson Road, Arline quickly turned her vehicle to the right to exit in front of a tractor trailer driven by Mr. Robert Sheppard. Her automobile was struck by the tractor trailer.

Plaintiffs' action is framed as a negligence claim against defendant for the improper placement of signs advising the motorists of a detour. The law of negligence requires the plaintiff to prove by a preponderance of the evidence, the existence of a duty, the breach of that duty, and injury resulting proximately therefrom. Strother v. Hutchinson (1981), 67 Ohio St. 2d 282.

Defendant has a duty to maintain its highways in a reasonably safe condition for the motoring public. Knickel v. Ohio Department of Transportation (1976), 49 Ohio App.2d 335. In conforming to this duty, defendant is required to adopt and utilize a manual with specifications for a uniform system of traffic control devices. R.C. 4511.09. Traffic control devices are defined as "signs, signals, markings, and devices placed or erected for the purpose of regulation, warning, or guiding traffic, including signs denoting names of streets and highways." R.C. 4511.01. The placement and maintenance of traffic control devices are governed by R.C. 4511.10, which provides that, "[t]he department of transportation may place and maintain traffic control devices, conforming to its Manual and specifications, upon all state highways as are necessary ." Defendant has adopted and currently utilizes the "Ohio Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways" (Manual), which provides the standard by which defendant is to act when using signs to maintain its highways in a reasonably safe condition. Woods v. Beavercreek (1989), 62 Ohio App.3d 468 (citing State, ex rel., Ohio Motorists Assn. v. Masters (1982), 8 Ohio App.3d 123).

Defendant is required to place signs making the driver aware of construction detours in compliance with the Manual. For plaintiffs to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that defendant breached a duty owed them, plaintiffs must show that defendant failed to comply with the Manual.

Section 2E-1 of the Manual provides for the positioning of signs in pertinent part as follows:

Standardization of position cannot always be attained in practice, because signs must in all cases be placed in the most advantageous positions and must be accommodated to highway design and alinement. The general rule is to locate signs on the right-hand side of the roadway, ...

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