Session February 22, 2017.
from the Tennessee Claims Commission No. T20140227 Robert N.
appeal arises from a claim against the State by the driver of
a motor vehicle who seeks damages resulting from a single-car
accident. Claimant contends the accident was the proximate
result of the State's negligence in the design,
construction, and maintenance of the roadway where the
accident occurred for which the State is liable pursuant to
Tenn. Code Ann. § 9-8-307(a)(1)(I). Following a trial,
the Claims Commissioner found that Claimant failed to prove
the State was negligent in the design, construction, or
maintenance of the roadway; therefore, Claimant failed to
prove a claim for negligence under Tenn. Code Ann. §
9-8-307(a)(1)(I). Finding the evidence does not preponderate
against the Claims Commission's findings, we affirm.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Claims
S. Queener, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Denise
Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Andrée S. Blumstein, Solicitor General; and Dawn
Jordan, Senior Deputy Attorney General, for the appellee,
State of Tennessee.
G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., delivered the opinion of the
Court, in which W. Neal McBrayer and Brandon O. Gibson, JJ.,
G. CLEMENT, JR., P.J., M.S.
Elliott ("Claimant") was involved in a single-car
accident on October 12, 2012, as she was exiting Vietnam
Veterans Boulevard (State Route 386) on Exit 3, which is a
curved exit-ramp where the surface of the road transitions
from asphalt to concrete. As she transitioned off the
concrete surface onto the asphalt, she claims her tires lost
traction due to the fact the asphalt had deteriorated at this
transition point and was wet from rain earlier that day. She
alleges that this deterioration caused her vehicle to fly off
the roadway and roll down an incline. Further, she contends
the State caused this dangerous condition because it
negligently and repeatedly "patched the problem by
piling up asphalt into the unraveled holes next to the
concrete." She also claims the State was negligent in
the design, construction, and maintenance of the roadway and
in failing to erect a proper barrier at the edge of the road
to prevent vehicles from rolling down the hill.
filed a Notice of Claim with the Division of Claims
Administration, asserting a claim against the State for
negligence under Tenn. Code Ann. §
9-8-307(a)(1)(I). The claim was transferred to the Claims
Commission. The State denied liability. More specifically, it
denied that a dangerous condition existed and denied that a
guardrail barrier was necessary.
case was tried before the Claims Commissioner from September
15 to 17, 2015, who heard testimony from numerous witnesses.
Several officers with the Hendersonville Police Department
testified that they had worked multiple single-car wrecks at
this location in rainy weather conditions. Additionally, two
individuals testified as to having similar accidents at this
exit-ramp in wet driving conditions. Further, Claimant and
her husband, son, and daughter, testified regarding the
injuries Claimant suffered in the accident.
Seth Miller, the police officer who worked the accident in
question, testified regarding his observations on the day of
Claimant's accident. He stated that there did not appear
to be anything functionally wrong with Claimant's vehicle
or tires, and that he did not issue Claimant a citation
arising from the accident. Officer Miller testified that the
roadway was wet on the day in question and had "holes,
deep ruts, [and] bumps" due to the natural weathering
and expanding of the concrete surface.
also presented the expert testimony of Dr. Robert Stammer,
Jr., a civil engineer specializing in transportation
engineering. Dr. Stammer testified that he reviewed accident
reports from other accidents occurring at this exit ramp, as
well as the accident report generated by Officer Miller, and
that he went to the area of the accident in question to
observe the pavement in conditions that were similar to the
day of Claimant's accident. Dr. Stammer testified that
when he visited the location of the accident he noted
"some irregular pavement or . . . pavement
distress" occurring at expansion joints on the exit
ramp. He stated that these expansion joints were originally
built with Portland cement concrete, but over the years were
overlaid with bituminous asphalt concrete. When asked whether
it is appropriate to patch the expansion joints with
bituminous asphalt, Dr. Stammer stated
It's one way that you could do it. Obviously, you could
also repair it or put a total overlay. I did not witness when
I was out there a total overlay, which would have given them
a more uniform surface, but ...