Thank you for contacting us.
This sounds like a tough situation. The issue here is that no one specifically saw the county workers damage the signs. The lack of evidence on this damage could be fatal.
The other issue here is that there may be a bailment that you could act on. Under WV law, a bailment requires that a party that accepts the property of another party into its care has a duty to return the property without damage. When the property is returned with damage, the property owner (the "bailor") may sue the bailee for the damage. However, where the bailment is to the primary benefit to the bailor you must be able to show gross negligence instead of just ordinary negligence. In either case your organization would have to prove that it was the negligence of another party which caused the damages to the signs.
Here, the fact that no one saw the county workers damage the signs brings about the argument that the damage could have been caused by the wind. This would mean that if the case were litigated, both sides would have to hire forensic
experts to present their expert opinion regarding the cause of the damage. One of the main issues would be whether there was ever a windstorm during the relevant period which could cause the damage.
You would like be able to subpoena
county records to determine when and what kind of work county workers were doing in the football field when it was locked up and the signs were damaged.
However, unless you prove that the owner of the field (is it the school district or the county?) was receiving some benefit by allowing the alumni association to keep the signs there, you will be required to show gross negligence. This would mean that you must show that the county workers did not merely accidentally damage the signs, but that they were blatantly reckless in their work so as to cause the damage. The higher burden here could prove fatal as well.
In the end, you have a hard case for the damages. You could attempt to present the case of liability through negligent bailment in a well crafted letter and demand a reasonable settlement so that the school district/county could avoid liability.
Another issue would be that the county/school district is entitled to sovereign immunity and thus any claim would have to comply with the Government Tort
Claims Act, which can be found in W. VA. CODE 29-12A-5 and requires certain notice requirements to be met.
Please let me know if you have any further questions. Please also kindly consider rating my answer positively so that I am compensated by the website for my work on your question. Rating positively does not cause an additional charge and does not prevent us from further discussing your questions.