96 N.Y. 264, Ehrgott v. City of New York

Citation96 N.Y. 264
Party NameMARTIN L. EHRGOTT, Respondent, v. THE MAYOR, ALDERMEN AND COMMONALTY OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK, Appellant.
Case DateJune 10, 1884
CourtNew York Court of Appeals

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96 N.Y. 264

MARTIN L. EHRGOTT, Respondent,

v.

THE MAYOR, ALDERMEN AND COMMONALTY OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK, Appellant.

New York Court of Appeal

June 10, 1884

Argued May 9, 1884.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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COUNSEL

De Lancey Nicoll for appellant. The corporation of the city of New York is charged with the duty of keeping its streets and avenues which are open to public travel in such repair that they may be safely traveled, and where it neglects such duty it is liable for injuries sustained through such negligence. (Mayor, etc., v. Furze, 3 Hill, 612; Rochester White Lead Co. v. City of Rochester, 3 Comst. 464; Hutson v. Mayor, etc., 5 Seld. 163; Henly v. Mayor, etc., 1 Bing. N. C. 212; Conrad v. Trustees, etc., 16 N.Y. 158; Charters 1686, 1708, 1730, amended by charter of 1830, charters of 1857, 1870, 1873; Mayor, etc., v. Turner, 1 Cowp. 86; Payne v. Partridge, 1 Shower, 256; Cooley on Const. Lim. 247, 248; Barnes v. District of Columbia, 91 U.S. 540; Dill. on Mun. Corp. [ 3d ed.], § § 967, 1046; West v. Trustees, etc., 16 N.Y. 161, note; Lee v. Village of Sandy Hill, 40 Id. 442; Storrs v. Utica, 17 Id. 104; Requa v. Rochester, 45 Id. 129.) The commissioners of the department of public parks in the city of New York are not independent public officers, but constitute a subordinate department of the city government, and when engaged in the performance of corporate duties are the agents of the corporation, for whose negligence it is liable. (Dill. on Mun. Corp. [ 3d ed.],§ 974; Mayor, etc., v. Bailey, 3 Hill, 538; 2 Den. 433; Conrad v. Trustees, etc., 16 N.Y. 158 and note;

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Maxmillian v. Mayor, etc., 62 Id. 160; Barnes v. Dist. of Columbia, 91 U.S. 540.) The duty of keeping all the streets in repair is a corporate duty in which the city corporation has a private interest, and from which it derives special benefit and advantage. (Mayor, etc., v. Furze, 3 Hill, 612; Conrad v. Trustees, etc., 16 N.Y. 158; Maxmillian v. Mayor, etc., 62 Id. 160; N.Y. & B'klyn Saw-Mill Co. v. B'klyn, 71 Id. 580; Appleton v. Water Comm'rs, 2 Hill, 433; Ham v. Mayor, etc., 70 N.Y. 457; Tone v. Mayor, etc., Id. 157; Russell v. Mayor, etc., 2 Denio, 461; Martin v. Mayor, etc., 1 Hill, 545; 91 U.S. 540; Swift v. Mayor, etc., 83 N.Y. 528.) The damages sustained by plaintiff were the proximate, natural and probable result of the defendant's negligence. (Lowery v. W. U. Tel. Co., 60 N.Y. 198; Eter v. Luyster, Id. 252; Jutte v. Hughes, 67 Id. 267; Williams v. Vanderbilt, 28 Id. 217; Mil. R. R. Co. v. Kellogg, 4 Otto, 469; Derry v. Flitner, 118 Mass. 131; Westfield v. Mayor, 122 Id. 100; Wood's Mayne on Damages, 66, § § 52, 53; 1 Sedg. on Meas. of Dam. [ 7th ed.] 129, note b; 2 Id. 362, note bc.) All plaintiff's conduct after the accident was free from negligence. ) Sherman on Neg. [ 3d ed.] 37, § 31; 2 Thompson on Neg. 1149; Willis v. L. I. R. R. Co., 32 Barb. 398; 34 N.Y. 670; Johnson v. Belden, 2 Lans. 433; Filer v. N.Y. C. R. R. Co., 49 N.Y. 47.) On conflicting evidence whether defendant's negligence is the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries, it is a question for the jury. (Mil. R. R. Co. v. Kellogg, 4 Otto, 469; Penn. R. R. Co. v. Hope, 80 Penn. St. 373; Webb v. R. W. & O. R. R. Co., 49 N.Y. 420; Derry v. Flitner, 118 Mass. 131; Gilman v. Noyes, 57 N.H. 627.) Where there is no conflict of fact, it is a question of law. (Hourd v. R. R. Co., 85 Penn. St. 293.) If plaintiff's damages arose from his exposure after the accident, and not from the strain of his fall, plaintiff being free from negligence in so exposing himself, such damages are simply the natural and probable result of defendant's negligence. (Sutherl. on Dam. 230; 4 Otto, 469, 475; 60 N.Y. 202; 49 Id. 420; McCoun v. N.Y. C. R. R. Co., 66 Barb. 338; Penn. R. R. Co. v. Hope, 80 Penn. St. 373; 60 N.Y. 252; Derry v. Flitner, 118 Mass. 131;

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Williams v. Vanderbilt, 28 N.Y. 217; Pullman P. C. Co. v. Barker, 4 Col. 344; 3 Am. Rep. 89; Ind., etc., R. R. Co. v. Birney, 71 Ill. 391; Francis v. St. L. Transfer Co., 5 Mo.App. 7; McMahon v. Fired, 44 L. T. 175; Brown v. C. M. & St. P. R. R. Co., 54 Wis. 342.)Where a plaintiff has received a fixed compensation for his services, or his earnings can be shown with reasonable certainty, proof of past profits is competent. (McIntyre v. N.Y. C. & H. R. R. R. Co., 37 N.Y. 287; Grant v. City of Brooklyn, 41 Barb. 381; Walker v. Erie R. R. Co., 63 Id. 260; Masterton v. Village of Mt. Vernon, 58 N.Y. 371; Wade v. Leroy, 20 How. 43; Nebraska City v. Campbell, 2 Blackst. 590; Nash v. Sharpe, 19 Hun, 366; Keisell v. Butler, 53 N.Y. 612; Phillips v. L. & S.W. R. R. Co., 49 L. J. C. L. 233.) Damages from bodily pain and suffering need not be specially alleged. (Curtis v. Roch. & Syr. R. R. Co., 18 N.Y. 534; 20 Barb. 282; Filer v. N.Y. C. R. R. Co., 49 N.Y. 42; Argotsinger v. Vines, 82 Id. 308.) Notice to the police of the defect in the street was notice to the city. (Rehberg v. Mayor, etc., 91 N.Y. 137.)

D. J. Dean for respondent. The duty of maintaining the street in question, not having been charged upon the mayor, aldermen and commonwealth of the city of New York, it is not liable. (Laws of 1874, chap. 329, § § 11, 14; Laws of 1857, chap. 771; Laws of 1859, chap. 349; Laws of 1860, chap. 150; Laws of 1861, chap. 88; Laws of 1864, chap. 275; Laws of 1865, chaps. 564, 565; Laws of 1866, chaps. 367, 757; Laws of 1867, chaps. 580, 697; Laws of 1870, chap. 137, § § 95, 96; Maxmilian v. Mayor, etc., 62 N.Y. 162, 166; Ham v. Mayor, etc., 70 Id. 459, 463, 464; Dillon on Mun. Corp. [ 3d ed.] 1036, § 1017; Id. 977, § 974; N.Y. & B. S. M. Co. v. City of Brooklyn, 71 N.Y. 580; Greer v. Mayor, etc., 60 Id. 303; Martin v. Mayor, etc., 1 Hill, 545; Lorillard v. Town of Monroe, 11 N.Y. 392-396; Bailey v. Mayor, etc., 2 Den. 433; Russell v. Mayor, etc., Id. 473-481; Hafford v. City of New Bedford, 82 Mass. 297; Fisher v. Boston, 104 Id. 87;

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Walcott v. Swampcott, 83 Id. 101; Buttrick v. Lowell, Id. 172; Terry v. Mayor, etc., 8 Bosw. 504; O'Meara v. Mayor, etc., 1 Daly, 425; Kelly v. Mayor, etc., 11 N.Y. 432; Pack v. Mayor, etc., 8 Id. 222.)The legislature may confer power upon independent public agencies to be exercised within the limits of a municipality independent of control by it. (People, ex rel. Bronson, v. Walsh, 36 Am. Rep. 135; Dillon on Mun. Corp., § 527.) The commissioners of parks are individually liable for neglect of duty in respect to the performance of the executive powers devolved upon them in relation to the maintenance of streets. (Bennett v. Whitney, 94 N.Y. 302; Hover v. Barkhoff, 44 Id. 113; Robinson v. Chamberlain, 34 Id. 389; Adsit v. Brady, 4 Hill, 630; Fulton F. Ins. Co. v. Baldwin, 37 N.Y. 648; S. & R. on Neg. 198.) There can be but one superior responsible at the same time in relation to the same transaction. (Maxmilian v. Mayor, etc., 62 N.Y. 163; Laugher v. Pointer, 5 B. & C. 560; Hobbil v. L. & N.W. R. R. Co., 4 Wel. H. & G. Exch. 253; Pack v. Mayor, etc., 8 N.Y. 22.) At common law a municipal corporation is not liable in a private action for neglect of duty in caring for the public streets, as such duty is purely governmental and is not performed for the emolument of the corporation. (Hill v. Boston, 122 Mass. 344; Russell v. Men of Devon, 2 T. R. 667, 673; Mower v. Leicester, 9 Mass. 247, 250; Bartlett v. Crozier, 17 Johns. 439; Morey v. Newfane, 8 Barb. 645; Gibson v. Mayor, etc., 5 Q. B. 218, 223; Mersey Docks v. Gibbs, 11 H. L. Cas. 686; Mayor, etc., v. Furze, 3 Hill, 612; Maxmilian v. Mayor, etc., 62 N.Y. 162; Ham v. Mayor, etc., 70 Id. 459; Smith v. Rochester, 76 Id. 506; Hutson v. Mayor, etc., 5 Sandf. 305; Dillon on Mun. Corp. [ 2d ed.] 967, 1045.) In an action to recover damages for personal injuries which prevent plaintiff from transacting his accustomed business, where the business is of such a nature that the profits therein are uncertain, proof of his past profits is incompetent. (Masterton v. Village of Mt. Vernon, 58 N.Y. 391, 396; Beerback v. Goodyear R. Co., 11 N.W. R. 514; Index Reporter, 4254.) Special damages--which although the natural are

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not the necessary result of the act complained of, and are not implied in law, must be particularly stated in the complaint to prevent surprise. (1 Chit. Pl. [14th Am. ed.] 338, 396; 2 Greenl. Ev., § 254; Armstrong v. Percy, 5 Wend. 538; Squier v. Gould, 14 Id. 159; Tooker v. Arnoux, 76 N.Y. 387.)The law cannot separate the damage directly caused by the accident from that caused by plaintiff's unnecessary and negligent exposure to the cold and rain, and therefore no recovery can be had. (2 Sedg. on Dam. [ 7th ed.] 358; Brand v. Sche. R. R. Co., 8 Barb. 360; Jenks v. Wilbraham, 11 Gray, 142; Butterfield v. Forester, 11 East, 60; 2 Thompson on Neg. 1091, 1151; Flower v. Adam, 3 Taunt. 314; Robinson v. West. Pac. R. R. Co., 48 Cal. 409; Hearne v. So. Pac. R. R. Co., 50 Id. 482; Hogle v. Cent. R. R. Co., 28 Hun, 363; 1 Sedg. on Meas. of Dam. [ 7th ed.] 34; 2 Id. 315, 317; L. V. R. Co. v. McKeen, 35 Am. Rep. 644; Krow v. Schoonmaker, 3 Barb. 647-650.) This is not a case for exemplary damages; the causes were too remote. (R. Co. v. Kerr, 62 Penn. St. 1353; 35 Am. Rep. 648; Hobbs v. London, etc., R. Co., L. R., 10 Q. B. 111; McMahon v. Field, Ch. Div., 44 L. T. [N. S.] 175; Waller v. M. G. W. of I. R. Co., 12 Irish L. T. 145; 4 Cal. 344.) In tort, as in contract, the rule as to damages is alike. (Baker v. Drake, 53 N.Y. 216; 1 Sedg. 217, note a; Masterson v. Mayor, etc., 7 Hill, 612; Blanchard v. Ely, 21 Wend. 342; Griffin v. Colver, 16 N.Y. 489, 493; Baldwin v. U.S. Tel. Co., 45 Id. 744; Booth v. Spuyten Duyvil Rolling Mill Co., 60 Id. 487; Magnin v. Dinsmore, 62 Id. 35; Devlin v. Moore, 63 Id. 8; Hexter v. Knox, Id. 561; Rice v. Marley, 66 Id. 82; Wehle v. Haviland, 69 Id. 448.) The damages are limited to those within the actual or...

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