11 R.I. 456 (R.I. 1877), Heeney v. Sprague

Citation:11 R.I. 456
Opinion Judge:DURFEE, C. J.
Attorney:William W. Douglas & John E. Risley, contra .
Case Date:February 24, 1877
Court:Supreme Court of Rhode Island

Page 456

11 R.I. 456 (R.I. 1877)




Supreme Court of Rhode Island.

February 24, 1877

A municipal ordinance required the removal of snow, & c., from sidewalks, by the owner of the adjoining premises, and prescribed a penalty for neglect. H., being injured by a fall on a sidewalk, slippery with snow which had not been removed, sued S., the owner of the adjoining premises, claiming that S. was liable in damages to H. on account of the violation of the ordinance by S.: -

Held, that the action would not lie.

The violation of a duty imposed by a municipal ordinance, and sanctioned by a fine, will not support an action on the case for special damages in favor of one injured by the violation and against the violator.

The power to enact ordinances being delegated must be strictly construed.

Semble, that where a statute imposes a duty, unless the duty is for the benefit of particular persons or classes, or is in consideration of some emolument or privilege conferred, a person damnified by the violation of the duty cannot maintain an action on the case against the violator for special injuries caused by the violation, - the only liability arising from the violation of such a duty being the penalty prescribed by the statute.

Query . How far does a liability upon a statutory duty arise from Stat. Westm. II. cap. 50?

MOTION in arrest of judgment.

This action was trespass on the case against the defendant, brought in the Court of Common Pleas and appealed to this court. In this court the plaintiff recovered a verdict for $2,750, and the defendant moved in arrest of the judgment thereon. The declaration set forth the following provisions of the Ordinances of the City of Providence: -

" SECTION 5. The owner or owners, occupant or occupants, or any person having the care of any building, or lot of land, bordering on any street, square, or public place within the city, where there is a sidewalk supported by a curbstone, shall within the first four hours of daylight after the ceasing to fall of any snow cause the same to be removed therefrom, and in default thereof shall forfeit and pay a sum not less than two dollars, nor more than ten dollars; and for each and every hour after the expiration of the said four hours that the snow shall remain on such sidewalk, such owner or owners, occupant or occupants, or other person, shall forfeit and pay a sum not less than one dollar, or more than ten dollars.

Page 457

SECTION 6. The provisions of the preceding section shall also apply to the falling of any snow from any building.

SECTION 7. Whenever the sidewalk, or any part thereof, adjoining any building, or lot of land, on any street, shall be incumbered with ice, it shall be the duty of the owner or owners, occupant or occupants, or any person having the care of such building or lot, to cause such sidewalk to be made safe and convenient, by removing the ice therefrom, or by covering the same with sand, or some other suitable substance; and in case such owner or owners, or other persons, shall neglect to do so, for the space of two hours during the daytime, he shall forfeit and pay a sum not less than two, nor more than ten dollars, and a like sum for every day thereafter that the same shall continue so incumbered."

And charged that the defendant, neglecting to perform the duty imposed by these provisions, allowed the sidewalk in front of certain realty owned by her in Providence to remain covered with snow and to become slippery, whereby the plaintiff's wife, in the exercise of due caution, & c., on her part, fell on said sidewalk and suffered severe and permanent injury.

Thurston, Ripley & Co., in support of the motion, cited Flynn v. Canton Co. of Baltimore, 40 Md. 312; Van Dyke v. City of Cincinnati et al. 1 Disney, 532; Adm'r of Chambers v. Ohio Life Ins. & Trust Co. 1 Disney, 327; Kirby v. Boylston Market Association, 14 Gray, 249; Wood on Nuisances, page 766.

William W. Douglas & John E. Risley, contra .

I. The city ordinance set forth in the declaration passed in pursuance of the provisions of the city charter imposed upon the defendant a duty which she has neglected to perform. Such neglect was the immediate cause of the injury, and subjects her to an action on the case by the injured person.

1. An action on the...

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