Malik S. Akbar, Plaintiff, v. Ohio Department of Transportation, Defendant.

No. 2008-09376-AD.Court of Claims of Ohio.
Filed April 20, 2009.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This case is unpublished as indicated by the issuing court.]

MEMORANDUM DECISION {¶ 1} On February 6, 2008 at approximately 6:30 p.m., plaintiff, Malik S. Akbar, was traveling north on Interstate 75 at the “Dayton, Ohio Main St Exit of I-75” when his 1990 BMW struck “two giant potholes” causing damage to the “left rear hydro hose (and) exhaust straps” of the vehicle. The roadway area where plaintiff’s damage event occurred was located within a construction zone. Plaintiff filed this complaint seeking to recover $370.66, the cost of automotive repair resulting from the February 6, 2008 incident. Plaintiff contended he incurred these damages as a proximate cause of negligence on the part of defendant, Department of Transportation (“DOT”), in maintaining the roadway in a construction area. The filing fee was paid.

{¶ 2} Defendant acknowledged the area where plaintiff’s stated damage event occurred was located within a construction zone maintained by DOT contractor, Kokosing Construction Company, Inc. (“Kokosing”). Defendant related the construction project involved grading and resurfacing, plus construction of numerous structures in Montgomery County on Interstate 75. The project was generally located between

Page 2

mileposts 13.11 and 14.58 on Interstate 75. Defendant asserted Kokosing, by contractual agreement, was responsible for maintaining the roadway within the construction area. Therefore, DOT argued Kokosing is the proper party defendant in this action, despite the fact all construction work was to be performed in accordance with DOT requirements, specifications and approval. Defendant implied all duties, such as the duty to inspect, the duty to warn, the duty to maintain, and the duty to repair defects, were delegated when an independent contractor takes control over a particular roadway section. The duty of DOT to maintain the roadway in a safe drivable condition is not delegable to an independent contractor involved in roadway construction. DOT may bear liability for the negligent acts of an independent contractor charged with roadway construction. See Cowell v. Ohio Department of Transportation, Ct. of Cl. No. 2003-09343-AD, jud, 2004-Ohio-151. Furthermore, despite defendant’s contentions that DOT did not owe any duty in regard to the construction project, defendant was charged with a duty to inspect the construction site and correct any known deficiencies in connection with the particular construction work. See Roadway Express, Inc. v. Ohio Dept. of Transp. (June 28, 2001), Franklin App. 00AP-1119.

{¶ 3} 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. 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.

{¶ 4} 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. Alternatively, defendant denied that neither DOT nor Kokosing had notice of the potholes plaintiff’s car struck. Evidence has shown Kokosing was not working in the area at the time of plaintiff’s incident.

{¶ 5} Generally, in order to recover in any suit involving injury proximately

Page 3

caused by roadway conditions including debris, plaintiff must prove either: 1) defendant had actual or constructive notice of the debris 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 indicate the length of time the potholes were present on the roadway prior to the incident forming the basis of this claim. No evidence has been submitted to show defendant had actual notice of the debris. Additionally, the trier of fact is precluded from making an inference of defendant’s constructive notice, unless evidence is presented in respect to the time the debris appeared on the roadway. Spires v. Ohio Highway Department (1988), 61 Ohio Misc. 2d 262, 577 N.E. 2d 458. There is no indication defendant had constructive notice of the debris. Plaintiff has not produced any evidence to infer defendant, in a general sense, maintains its highways negligently or that defendant’s acts caused the defective condition Herlihy v. Ohio Department of Transportation (1999), 99-07011-AD. 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. Therefore, defendant is not liable for any damage plaintiff may have suffered from the potholes.

{¶ 6} In the instant claim, plaintiff has failed to introduce sufficient evidence to prove defendant or its agents maintained a known hazardous roadway condition. Plaintiff failed to prove his property damage was connected to any conduct under the control of defendant, that defendant or its agents were negligent in maintaining the roadway area, or that there was any negligence on the part of defendant or its agents Taylor v. Transportation Dept. (1998), 97-10898-AD; Weininger v. Department of Transportation (1999), 99-10909-AD; Witherell v. Ohio Dept. of Transportation (2000), 2000-04758-AD. Consequently, plaintiff’s claim is denied.

Page 4

Having considered all the evidence in the claim file and, for the reasons set forth in the memorandum decision filed concurrently herewith, judgment is rendered in favor of defendant. Court costs are assessed against plaintiff.

Page 1