City of Florence v. Stack, 8 Div. 23

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Citation275 Ala. 367,155 So.2d 324,1 A.L.R.3d 490
Docket Number8 Div. 23
Parties, 1 A.L.R.3d 490 CITY OF FLORENCE v. Frank P. STACK, Jr., Pro aml.
Decision Date11 July 1963

Arnold Teks and Potts & Young, Florence, for appellant.

E. B. Haltom, Jr., and Donald H. Patterson, Florence, for appellee.

GOODWYN, Justice.

Suit against the City of Florence to recover damages for personal injuries allegedly received by plaintiff when the two-wheeled motor scooter he was riding 'ran upon, in, over or on a defect, hole, cut, ditch, or excavation' in the paved surface of a public street, known as Old Jackson Road, located in said city. The jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff and judgment followed the verdict. The city prosecutes this appeal from said judgment and also from the judgment overruling its motion for a new trial.

The basic question presented is whether a city's duty to maintain its streets is different with respect to a two-wheeled motor scooter than it is with respect to a four-wheeled motor vehicle. The city contended in the trial court, as it does here, that it has the duty only to keep its streets reasonably safe for 'ordinary vehicles,' that is, four-wheeled vehicles, and not for two-wheeled motor scooters. The argument is that 'to characterize a motor scooter an ordinary vehicle * * * would constitute the adoption of an unrealistic rule of law which ignores the basic difference in two-wheeled vehicles and ordinary four-wheeled vehicles'; that 'such characterization would impose upon the municipality not only the duty to keep its streets reasonably safe for ordinary four-wheeled traffic but would require the city to maintain its streets free from the minutest defects which, though harmless to the operation of four-wheeled vehicles, could easily upset or over-turn the less stable two-wheeled vehicles, thus placing an unconscionable burden upon the municipality'; that 'it is common knowledge that a motorscooter, motorcyle, bicycle or two-wheeled vehicle is more easily overturned or upset than four-wheeled vehicles, such as automobiles, trucks, wagons, etc., and hence a street may be perfectly safe for automobiles and at the same time be unsafe for motorscooters, bicycles and other two-wheeled vehicles.'

The position taken by the city is pointed up by several written charges requested by it and refused by the trial court, and also by several exceptions to the court's oral charge to the jury and the sustaining of plaintiff's objection to argument by defendant's counsel. The requested charges are to the effect that a municipality is not liable for injuries sustained by a motor scooter rider due to a defect in a street if such street is reasonably safe for use by four-wheeled vehicles. The parts of the court's oral charge excepted to were not in accord with this principle, and the argument of defendant's counsel, the objection to which was sustained, was in accord. In other words, the city's contention is that its duty in maintaining its streets is to keep them in a reasonably safe condition for use by four-wheeled vehicles only and is under no duty to maintain them in a reasonably safe condition for use by two-wheeled motor vehicles. We are unable to agree with this contention.

A municipality's duty with respect to maintenance of its streets for travel is well-established in this State. 'In general terms, the liability of a municipality in a suit of this kind is governed by the duty and obligation to exercise ordinary and reasonable care to keep its streets and sidewalks in a reasonably safe condition for travel. This imposition does not make the municipality a guarantor of the safe and unharmed travel to the public. The duty is based on the responsibility and accountability of the city to remedy such defects upon receiving actual notice, or after the same has remained for such length of time and under such conditions and circumstances that the law will infer that the defect ought to have been discovered and remedied. § 502, Title 37, Code 1940; City of Bessemer v. Whaley, 187 Ala. 525, 65 So.542; City of Birmingham v. Martin, 228 Ala. 318, 153 So. 235; City of Montgomery v. Ross, 195 Ala. 362, 70 So. 634; City of Birmingham v. Coe, 31 Ala.App. 538, 20 So.2d 110, certiorari denied 246 Ala. 231, 20 So.2d 113. * * *' Jacks v. City of Birmingham, 268 Ala. 138, 142-143, 105 So.2d 121, 125-126; City of Birmingham v. Coe, 31 Ala.App. 538, 541, 20 So.2d 110, cert. den. 246 Ala. 231, 20 So.2d 113, supra. 'The general rule is that the public ways for their entire length and width should be reasonably safe for uses consistent with the reason for their establishment and existence. But this general rule is subject to the necessary qualification that the municipal authorities may, in the exercise of a sound and reasonable judgment, fairly and with due regard to the public needs and welfare apportion the surface of public streets to the use of vehicles, to the use of pedestrians, and to ornamentation and beneficial uses resulting from parkways. * * *' City of Birmingham v. Carle, 191 Ala. 539, 547, 68 So. 22, 25, L.R.A.1915F, 797. It is the duty of a municipality to keep its public streets in a reasonably safe condition for travel by night as well as by day, and this duty extends to the entire width of the street. City of Birmingham v. Young, 246 Ala. 650, 655, 22 So.2d 169, and cases there cited. 'The duty of a city to use due care to keep its streets reasonably safe for ordinary travel is not controlled by the manner in which the defect arose, or by whom it was created. City of Bessermer v. Whaley, 187 Ala. 525, 65 So. 542 [supar]; City of Bessemer v. Barnett, 212 Ala. 202, 102 So. 23.' Brooks v. City of Birmingham, 239 Ala. 172, 175, 194 So. 525, 527. 'It is well settled that persons using a public street have a right to presume, and to act on the presumption, that the way is reasonably safe for ordinary travel, whether by day or night. 13 R.C.L. 472; Birmingham v. Tayloe, 105 Ala. 170, 16 South. 576; Montgomery v. Reese, 146 Ala....

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7 cases
  • City of Prichard v. Kelley
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • May 30, 1980 a reasonably safe condition for travel. McCarroll v. City of Bessemer, 289 Ala. 449, 268 So.2d 731 (1972); City of Florence v. Stack, 275 Ala. 367, 155 So.2d 324 (1963); Johnson v. City of Opelika, 260 Ala. 551, 71 So.2d 793 (1954). The question then becomes one of whether the maintenanc......
  • McCarroll v. City of Bessemer
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • September 28, 1972
    ...ways reasonably safe for ordinary travel. Oliver v. Water Works & Sanitary Sewer Board, 261 Ala. 234, 73 So.2d 552; City of Florence v. Stack, 275 Ala. 367, 155 So.2d 324; Johnson v. City of Opelika, 260 Ala. 551, 71 So.2d 793. An evaluation of the cases may cause one to wonder as to whethe......
  • City of Tallassee v. Harris
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • April 1, 1983 keeping the alley which was used regularly by the public in a reasonably safe condition for travel. See City of Florence v. Stack, 275 Ala. 367, 370, 155 So.2d 324, 327 (1963). Consequently, charges 12, 13 and 15 were properly As to charge 14 refused by the trial court, counsel for the c......
  • Jones v. City of Birmingham
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • June 26, 1969
    ...exercised reasonable care. Tit. 37, § 502, Code 1940; Dixon v. City of Mobile, 280 Ala. 419, 194 So.2d 825; City of Florence v. Stack, 275 Ala. 367, 155 So.2d 324, 1 A.L.R.3d 490. It is also a well-recognized rule in this state that the maintaining by a municipal corporation of public squar......
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