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decided: November 25, 1889.



Author: Harlan

[ 132 U.S. Page 301]

 MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.

[ 132 U.S. Page 302]

     By section 2640 of the Revised Statutes of Ohio, Title, Municipal Corporations, it is provided that "the council shall have the care, supervision and control of all public highways, streets, avenues, alleys, sidewalks, public grounds and bridges within the corporation, and shall cause the same to be kept open as in repair, and free from nuisance." 1 Rev. Stats. Ohio, Title XII, Div. 8, c. 13, Giauque's ed. 600.

The city concedes that, if there was any liability at all on its part, the charge of the court correctly announced the principles of law applicable to the case. If the obstruction in question was on Bank Street unnecessarily, or for an unreasonable length of time, or was there without proper lights or other guards to indicate its locality, and such condition of the street at the time the plaintiff was injured existed with the knowledge of the city, either actual or constructive, for a sufficient length of time to remedy it by the exercise of proper diligence, the liability of the city cannot be doubted, in view of the decisions of the Supreme Court of Ohio and of this court; unless, as contended by the defendant, the plaintiff, notwithstanding the negligence of the city in not keeping the street open and free from unisance, could, by due care, have avoided the injuries he received.

In the case of Cardington v. Fredericks, which will appear in 46 Ohio St., the Supreme Court of Ohio construed the above section in connection with section 5144, which, among other things, provides that an action for a nuisance shall abate by the death of either party. That was an action against an incorporated village founded upon a petition alleging that a street used by the public was so unskillfully and negligently constructed and left by the defendant as to be in an unsafe condition, and allowed to become out of repair and obstructed by the rubbish and refuse of the village, so that it was highly dangerous; and that the plaintiff, while lawfully passing along the street, accidentally, and without fault on her part, was precipitated down an embankment, whereby she was greatly bruised and injured.

The court held the action to be one for a nuisance, and, in harmony with the principles announced upon this general

[ 132 U.S. Page 303]

     subject in Barnes v. District of Columbia, 91 U.S. 540, 547, said: "The statute (ยง 2640, Rev. Stats.) gives to municipal corporations the care, supervision and control of all public highways, etc., and requires that the same shall be kept open, and in repair, and free from nuisance. In effect it is a requirement that the corporation shall prevent all nuisances therein; any by allowing a street to become so out of repair as to be dangerous, the corporation itself maintains a nuisance, and a suit to recover for injuries thereby occasioned is for damage arising from a nuisance or 'for a nuisance.' The statute does not give a remedy, it but enjoins the duty. And when a duty to keep streets in repair is enjoined on municipal corporations, either by a statute in the form now in force or by a provision which authorizes them to pass ordinances for regulating streets and keeping them in repair, and gives power to levy taxes for that purpose, and presumably to obtain a fund for satisfying claims for damages, a right of action for damages caused by such neglect arises by the common law."

This language leaves no room to doubt the liability of the city of Cleveland for the damages sustained by the plaintiff if it was guilty of the negligence charged in the petition, and if the plaintiff was not himself guilty of negligence that materially contributed to his injury. The fact that the permits to Rosenfeld and Kostering only authorized them to occupy one-half of the street for the purpose of depositing building materials thereon, and required them to indicate the locality of such materials by proper lights, during the whole of every night that they were left in the street, did not relieve the city of the duty of exercising such reasonable diligence as the circumstances required, to prevent the street from being occupied by those parties in such a way as to endanger passers-by in their use of it in all proper ways. Whether that degree of diligence was exercised by the city, through its agents; whether its officers had such notice of knowledge of the use of Bank Street, in the locality mentioned, by the parties to whom the above permits were granted, as was inconsistent with the safety of passers-by using it with due diligence; whether, in fact, the materials and obstructions placed by Kostering on the

[ 132 U.S. Page 304]

     street were sufficiently indicated by signal lights or otherwise, during the night-time; and whether the plaintiff was himself guilty of such negligence as contributed to his injury, were questions fairly submitted to the jury, and are not open for consideration in this court.

The objection that the petition did not state facts constituting a good cause of action, is not well taken. The allegations were broad enough to admit proof of such knowledge or notice upon the part of the city of the condition of Bank Street as would fix its liability to the plaintiff. If the defendant desired a fuller statement of the cause of action, the proper course was to indicate its wishes by a motion to require the plaintiff to make more specific his allegations as to negligence.

The motion to exclude all evidence upon the part of the plaintiff and the motion for a verdict in behalf of the defendant were properly denied. The question of negligence, in all of its aspects, was peculiarly for the jury.

As no error of law was committed at the trial, the judgment is affirmed.


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