Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Bruce A. Hafer v. Ohio Dept. of Transportation

July 19, 2011


Cite as

Hafer v. Ohio Dept. of Transp.,

The Ohio Judicial Center 65 South Front Street, Third Floor Columbus, OH 43215 614.387.9800 or 1.800.824.8263

Acting Clerk Daniel R. Borchert


{¶1} Plaintiff, Bruce Hafer, filed this action against defendant, Department of Transportation (ODOT), contending that his vehicle was damaged on March 6, 2011, at approximately 8:00 p.m. as a proximate result of negligence on the part of ODOT in maintaining a hazardous condition on Interstate 71 South in Franklin County.

Specifically, plaintiff asserted that his left front wheel, tire, and tie rod end were damaged as a result of striking a pothole which he stated was located "on the entrance ramp to 270E." In his complaint, plaintiff requested damage recovery of $501.71, which represents $500.00 for his insurance coverage deductible and other related repair expenses. The $25.00 filing fee was paid.

{¶2} Defendant denied liability based on the contention that no ODOT personnel had any knowledge of the particular damage-causing pothole prior to plaintiff's incident. Defendant advised that no complaints of a pothole were received at the location on Interstate 71 described by plaintiff which "is near county milepost 10.48 or state milepost 101.55 on I-71 in Franklin County." Defendant contended that plaintiff did not produce any evidence to establish the length of time the pothole at milepost 101.55 on Interstate 71 existed prior to his March 5, 2011 damage occurrence.

{¶3} Furthermore, defendant contended that plaintiff failed to offer evidence to prove that ODOT negligently maintained the roadway. Defendant asserted that plaintiff has not shown his property damage was attributable to conduct on the part of ODOT personnel. Defendant explained that the ODOT "Franklin County Manager inspects all state roadways within the county at least two times a month." Apparently, no potholes were discovered at milepost 101.55 on Interstate 71 the last time that particular section of roadway was inspected prior to March 5, 2011. The claim file is devoid of any inspection record. Defendant did submit a copy of the "Maintenance History" for Interstate 71 in Franklin County covering the dates from October 22, 2010, to March 6, 2011. This record shows that ODOT crews patched potholes in the area including milepost 101.55 on November 17 and November 29, 2010, and on February 25, 2011.

{¶4} On June 1, 2011, plaintiff filed a response arguing that defendant must have had prior knowledge of the pothole inasmuch as the pothole had been repaired by March 7, 2011.

{¶5} For plaintiff to prevail on a claim of negligence, he must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that defendant owed him a duty, that it breached that duty, and that the breach proximately caused his injuries. Armstrong v. Best Buy Company, Inc., 99 Ohio St. 3d 79, 2003-Ohio-2573,¶ 8 citing Menifee v. Ohio Welding Products, Inc. (1984), 15 Ohio St. 3d 75, 77, 15 OBR 179, 472 N.E. 2d 707. Plaintiff has the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that he suffered a loss and that this loss was proximately caused by defendant's negligence. Barnum v. Ohio State University (1977), 76-0368-AD. However, "[i]t is the duty of a party on whom the burden of proof rests to produce evidence which furnishes a reasonable basis for sustaining his claim. If the evidence so produced furnishes only a basis for a choice among different possibilities as to any issue in the case, he fails to sustain such burden." Paragraph three of the syllabus in Steven v. Indus. Comm. (1945), 145 Ohio St. 198, 30 O.O. 415, 61 N.E. 2d 198, approved and followed.

{¶6} Defendant has the 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, 3 O.O. 3d 413, 361 N.E. 2d 486. However, defendant is not an insurer of the safety of its highways. See Kniskern v. Township of Somerford (1996), 112 Ohio App. 3d 189, 678 N.E. 2d 273; Rhodus v. Ohio Dept. of Transp. (1990), 67 Ohio App. 3d 723, 588 N.E. 2d 864.

{¶7} In order to prove a breach of the duty to maintain the highways, plaintiff must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that defendant had actual or constructive notice of the precise condition or defect alleged to have caused the accident. McClellan v. ODOT (1986), 34 Ohio App. 3d 247, 517 N.E. 2d 1388. Defendant is only liable for roadway conditions of which it has notice but fails to reasonably correct. Bussard v. Dept. of Transp. (1986), 31 Ohio Misc. 2d 1, 31 OBR 64, 507 N.E. 2d 1179. Despite the arguments raised by plaintiff in his response, there is no evidence that defendant had actual notice of the pothole. Therefore, for the court to find liability on a notice theory, evidence of constructive notice of the pothole must be presented.

{¶8} "[C]onstructive notice is that which the law regards as sufficient to give notice and is regarded as a substitute for actual notice or knowledge." In re Estate of Fahle (1950), 90 Ohio App. 195, 197-198, 47 O.O. 231, 105 N.E. 2d 429. "A finding of constructive notice is a determination the court must make on the facts of each case not simply by applying a pre-set time standard for the discovery of certain road hazards." Bussard, at 4. "Obviously, the requisite length of time sufficient to constitute constructive notice varies with each specific situation." Danko v. Ohio Dept. of Transp. (Feb. 4, 1993), Franklin App. No. 92AP-1183. In order for there to be a finding of constructive notice, plaintiff must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that sufficient time has elapsed after the dangerous condition appears, so that under the circumstances defendant should have acquired knowledge of its existence. Guiher v. Dept. of Transportation (1978), 78-0126-AD; Gelarden v. Ohio Dept. of Transp., Dist. 4, Ct. of Cl. No. 2007-02521-AD, 2007-Ohio-3047.

{ΒΆ9} The trier of fact is precluded from making an inference of defendant's constructive notice, unless evidence is presented in respect to the time that the pothole appeared on the roadway. Spires v. Ohio Highway Department (1988), 61 Ohio Misc. 2d 262, 577 N.E. 2d 458. No evidence was presented to establish the time that the particular pothole was present. Size of the defect (pothole) is insufficient to show notice or duration of existence. O'Neil v. Department of Transportation (1988), 61 Ohio Misc. 2d 287, 587 N.E. 2d 891. Plaintiff has failed to prove that defendant had constructive notice of the pothole. Plaintiff has not produced any evidence to infer that defendant, in a general sense, maintains its highways negligently or that defendant's acts caused ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.