Two lawsuits were filed last week against the West Virginia University Board of Governors, stemming from a rock slide on Feb. 10 that sent three people to the hospital.
Chloe Bolin, a WVU student from Cincinnati, and Susan Cramer, a Morgantown resident, allege in separate complaints that the university failed to curb a decades-old problem of large rocks falling from WVU property onto Monongahela Boulevard. The lawsuits were filed in Monongalia County Circuit Court and both plaintiffs are being represented by Morgantown attorney Dino Colombo.
Cramer, who was traveling north on Monongahela Boulevard when the large rock struck the front end of her car, says she suffered permanent bodily damage from the incident. Injuries include a fractured right femur, a fractured sternum, multiple spine and rib fractures and a number of other injuries, according to the lawsuit.
Cramer, 65, has been unable to return to work and cannot care for herself without the help of family and friends, the lawsuit reads, and has incurred more than $400,000 in medical bills since the incident.
Bolin was riding in a Personal Rapid Transit car when it collided with the rock, which sent Bolin and another student to the hospital. Emergency crews were forced to cut out most of the front end of the PRT car to get students out.
The lawsuit alleges Bolin was also seriously and permanently injured, as she suffered multiple pelvis fractures, a pulmonary contusion and a number of other complications resulting in medical expenses in excess of $100,000.
The lawsuits cite a January 1983 article in the Daily Athenaeum, WVU’s independent student newspaper, which covered one incident of large rocks and boulders falling from the property. Both plaintiffs allege WVU had known about the property’s rock side problem for years. The property is located directly behind the Benjamin Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources Building on the school’s Evansdale Campus.
“Despite its knowledge of the propensity for large rocks to fall from the WVU property, the [Board of Governors] failed to take any appropriate action to remedy the dangerous condition on the WVU property, putting the community at significant risk of serious injury,” both lawsuits read.
WVU spokeswoman April Kaull wrote in an email that the board cannot comment on pending litigation.
Bolin and Cramer are seeking compensatory damages for pain and suffering, past and future medical bills and other forms of relief.
“[The Board of Governors] was obviously aware that the PRT was located below the subject property and the PRT transports hundreds, if not thousands, of West Virginia University students and other members of the community daily,” both lawsuits read.
On June 19, the Board of Governors approved $2.9 million in funding to make improvements on the hillside, including the stabilization of a 400-foot-long sandstone bed and building a 1,600-foot barrier fence, according to the Daily Athenaeum.
Steven Kite, a WVU geology professor, told the newspaper following the incident that he used to track all the rocks that fell onto the boulevard.
“[But] I gave up; it was so common,” he said. “Rocks coming down there of more modest size are so common that it just doesn’t make the news.”