Eggleston v. West Virginia Dep't of Highways

In Eggleston v. West Virginia Dep't of Highways, 189 W. Va. 230, 429 S.E.2d 636 (1993), the plaintiff was involved in tractor-trailer accident on a highway and brought an action against the West Virginia Department of Highways. The plaintiff alleged that his accident was caused by DOH's negligence in designing, constructing, maintaining, and failing to properly warn of the unsafe nature of highway. The circuit court found that the insurance coverage provided to the DOH by BRIM did not cover the type of harm complained of by the plaintiff. Consequently, the circuit court granted summary judgment to DOH and dismissed the action. The plaintiff appealed. Justice Miller began the opinion in Eggleston by stating that "before we address the issue of insurance policy coverage, it is useful to explain the underlying legal concept that enables the plaintiff to sue the WVDOH." Eggleston, 189 W. Va. at 232, 429 S.E.2d at 638. The opinion then went on to discuss the state's sovereign immunity and the exception to that immunity when liability insurance coverage is obtained. Regarding insurance coverage, Eggleston made the following general observation, which became syllabus point 1: W. Va. Code, 29-12-5(a) (1986), provides an exception to the State's constitutional immunity found in Section 35 of Article VI of the West Virginia Constitution. It requires the State Board of Risk and Insurance Management to purchase or contract for insurance and requires that such insurance policy "shall provide that the insurer shall be barred and estopped from relying upon the constitutional immunity of the State of West Virginia against claims or suits." (Eggleston, 189 W. Va. at 232, 429 S.E.2d at 638.) The Court explained that the hallmark of a custom-designed policy is that it is "different from the usual insurance policy that is prepared and printed by an insurance company and delivered to the insured, whose only input ordinarily is not as to its language, but as to the amount and type of coverage."