Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
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.

Sharon E. Heyman v. Ohio Department of Transportation

July 21, 2011

SHARON E. HEYMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
OHIO DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, DISTRICT 4, DEFENDANT.



Cite as Heyman 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 www.cco.state.oh.us

Acting Clerk Daniel R. Borchert

MEMORANDUM DECISION

{¶1} Plaintiff, Sharon Heyman, filed this action against defendant, Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), contending that her 2007 Pontiac G6 was damaged as a proximate result of negligence on the part of ODOT in maintaining a hazardous condition on Interstate 77 in Summit County. In her complaint, plaintiff described the particular damage event noting "I took my son to Akron/Canton airport. I got off of I76 onto I77. I was on I77 for just a few miles. I hit a pothole with my right front tire." According to plaintiff, the incident occurred on March 5, 2011, at 1:15 p.m. Plaintiff seeks recovery of damages in the amount of $626.15, the stated cost for replacement parts, related repair expenses, and reimbursement of the filing fee. The 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 March 5, 2011 incident. Upon investigation, defendant located plaintiff's incident at "county milepost 6.73 or state milepost 120.22 on I-77 in Summit County." Defendant denied receiving any prior calls or complaints about a pothole or potholes in the vicinity of that location despite the fact that "[t]his section of roadway has an average daily traffic count" of over 90,000 vehicles. Defendant asserted that plaintiff did not offer any evidence to establish the length of time that any pothole existed in the vicinity of milepost 120.22 on I-77 prior to March 5, 2011. Defendant suggested that "it is more likely than not that the pothole existed in that location for only a relatively short amount of time before plaintiff's incident."

{¶3} Additionally, defendant contended that plaintiff did not offer any evidence to prove that the roadway was negligently maintained. Defendant advised that the ODOT "Summit County Manager conducts roadway inspections on all state roadways within the county on a routine basis, at least one to two times a month." Apparently, no potholes were discovered in the vicinity of plaintiff's incident the last time that section of roadway was inspected prior to March 5, 2011. The claim file is devoid of any inspection record. Defendant argued that plaintiff has failed to offer any evidence to prove that her property damage was attributable to any conduct on the part of ODOT personnel. Defendant stated that, "[a] review of the six-month maintenance history [record submitted] for the area in question reveals that four (4) pothole patching operations were conducted in the southbound direction of I-77." Defendant noted, "that if ODOT personnel had detected any defects they would have been promptly scheduled for repair."

{¶4} Plaintiff did not file a response.

{¶5} For plaintiff to prevail on a claim of negligence, she must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that defendant owed her a duty, that it breached that duty, and that the breach proximately caused her 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. 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 conditions or defects 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. There is no evidence that defendant had actual notice of the pothole on I-77 prior to March 5, 2011.

{¶8} Therefore, to find liability, plaintiff must prove that ODOT had constructive notice of the defect. 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 defective condition developed. Spires v. Ohio Highway Department (1988), 61 Ohio Misc. 2d 262, 577 N.E. 2d 458.

{¶9} In order for there to be constructive notice, plaintiff must show 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 . Size of the defect 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. "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. 92AP- 1183. No evidence has shown that ODOT had constructive notice of the pothole.

{¶10} Generally, in order to recover in a suit involving damage proximately caused by roadway conditions including potholes, plaintiff must prove that either: 1) defendant had actual or constructive notice of the potholes and failed to respond in a reasonable time or responded in a negligent manner, or 2) that defendant, in a general sense, maintains its highways negligently. Denis v. Department of Transportation (1976), 75-0287-AD. Plaintiff has not produced any evidence to infer that defendant, in a general sense, maintains its highways negligently or that defendant's acts caused the defective conditions. Herlihy v. Ohio Department of Transportation (1999), 99-07011- AD. Therefore, defendant is not liable for any damage plaintiff may have suffered from the pothole.

{ΒΆ11} In the instant claim, plaintiff has failed to introduce sufficient evidence to prove that defendant maintained known hazardous roadway conditions. Plaintiff failed to prove that her property damage was connected to any conduct under the control of defendant, or that defendant was negligent in maintaining the roadway area, or that there was any actionable negligence on the part of defendant. Taylor v. Transportation Dept. (1998), 97-10898-AD; Weininger ...


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.