Calhoun man sues over unsafe road

By Kelly Holleran | Jul 15, 2009

CLARKSBURG – A Calhoun County man has filed a lawsuit against the secretary for the West Virginia Department of Transportation and the superintendent of Calhoun County Schools, saying they have done nothing to fix a hazardous road condition.

David C. Corson filed a similar complaint with the Office of Civil Rights in 2002. In both complaints, Corson says the Department of Highways built a bridge over low water in 1996, but never completed the project, making the bridge unsafe.

Since then, the bridge has caused major flooding to Corson's driveway, causing him to be unable to leave his house or to take his son to a waiting school bus.

"The Division of Highways allowed a low water bridge to damn (sic) water to flow down the highway and over the driveway causing damage which removed accessibility to and from the highway, and by failing to provide equal access to the program of paving of the Road 15/2 and other programs," the suit filed May 15 states.

In fact, Corson says his driveway has eroded at least two feet since the Department of Highways began their work. In addition, because of water running down 15/2 over the low water bridge, a second creek has formed, according to the complaint.

To make matters worse, Corson says the Calhoun County school bus has used his driveway to turn around, causing both culverts used to drain water underneath his driveway to break down.

Corson has also been forced to continually replace the bridge and its related structures due to the high water and has even been required to replace an engine in one of his cars, the federal complaint says.

In May 2001, Corson says he attempted to drive through flood waters flowing over his driveway, but his truck engine's pistons filled with water. He had to pay $1,516.55 to replace the engine and the clutch, according to an exhibit he submitted to the court.

The problem has gotten so bad that on May 8 and May 9, flooding caused about a ton of sand and gravel to be deposited in Corson's driveway, he claims.

As Corson is disabled, he says he finds it increasingly difficult to get home because he cannot cross his driveway.

"I am 71 years old and have one leg with a stainless steel pin in it," a letter Corson wrote to the Department of Transportation states. "The other is even worse. And I lost part of my lung. I can walk but not the half mile up my driveway every day. I can no longer get my car across the driveway and so I have to walk to and from my house a ½ mile to get to home."

Because of the low water bridge and the high water problems it has caused, school buses are no longer allowed to cross the bridge when it is covered by water.

Corson argues this is unsafe for parents and children, who both must cross the water to the waiting bus.

Although Corson has written numerous letters to the Department of Highways and the superintendent of schools complaining of the problem, nothing has been done to fix it, the suit states.

In his lawsuit, Corson includes numerous letters he wrote to varying authorities and some of the responses he received.

In one letter from West Virginia Department of Transportation District Engineer James E. Rotten dated Sept. 13, 2001, Corson was told the project to fix the low water road was given a lower priority and was not completed after a new Calhoun County superintendent was elected.

Corson believes the Department of Transportation's and Calhoun County School's refusals to help him are in retaliation for his 2002 OCR complaint and for his continued advocacy for disabled students in Calhoun County schools.

Corson is asking the court for summary judgment for replacement of the damaged culverts to a depth of at least four feet below the roadway and for the rebuilding of his driveway to a width of at least 15 feet. He is also asking the court to rule that the Department of Transportation build a permanent bridge of a safe nature.

Corson is seeking monetary damages of more than $250,000 and other relief the court deems just.

Corson will be appearing pro se.

U.S. District Court case number: 1:09-CV-65

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