Reardon v. St. Louis Cnty.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Missouri
Writing for the CourtWAGNER
Citation36 Mo. 555
PartiesMARY REARDON, Plaintiff in Error, v. ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Defendant in Error.
Decision Date31 October 1865

36 Mo. 555

MARY REARDON, Plaintiff in Error,
v.
ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Defendant in Error.

Supreme Court of Missouri.

October Term, 1865.


Error to St. Louis Circuit Court.

Garesche, for plaintiff in error.

I. The petition is sufficient.

II. The plaintiff was entitled to recover. (§§ 3 & 4 of “Act concerning damages,” R. C. 1855, p. 648.)

III. By the laws applicable to St. Louis county, it is compelled to keep in repair the roads, bridges and highways of certain routes, inter alia, the Bellefontaine road, and, to carry out the purpose, is clothed with the power to borrow money, levy taxes and collect toll. (See act concerning roads and highways; “Volume of laws applicable to St. Louis county,” § 2, p. 379; § 5, p. 380; § 12, p. 381; § 2, p. 386, concerning tolls; § 2, p. 391, authorized to borrow money; § 1, p. 393, “to open and to keep in repair all public roads in St. Louis county;” § 11. p. 396, to open and keep in repair “may tax;” § 14, p. 396, may apply tolls to the keeping in repair roads and bridges, and opening new roads; § 15, p. 396, county court may employ such surveyors, engineers and agents necessary to open and keep in repair the roads of said county, and for the erection of bridges and other work on said roads; § 19, p. 396, may take other county funds for these purposes; § 21, must collect such rate of toll as shall be reasonable and just, to apply the same to keeping said roads in repair.)

IV. A defective bridge, or the want of a suitable barrier to a bridge or road, is a defect for which a company can be held responsible. (Randall v. Prop'rs Cheshire Turnpike Co., 6 N. H. 147; Townsend v. Pres't & Direc's of Susquehanna Turnpike Co., 6 John. 90: Wheeler v. Troy, 20 N. H. 78; Cogswell v. Livingston, 4 Cush. 308; Norris v. Litchfield,

[36 Mo. 556]

35 N. H. 271; Wiley v. Portsmouth, 35 N. H. 314; Tolland v. 26 Conn., 583, and the cases therein cited; Hayden v. Attleboro, 7 Gray, Willington, Mass., 338; Palmer et als. v. Andover, 2 Cush 600.)

A public bridge is a public highway. (McPheeters v. Meramec Bridge Co., 28 Mo. 462.)

V. These and the preceding cases show that what is a defect is a question of fact to be found by the jury. (Merrill v. Inh. of Hamp., 26 Me. 234; Casseday v Stockbridge, 21 Vt. 397; Commonwealth v. Cent. Bridge Station, 12 Cush. 245.)

VI. Is the County of St. Louis, as a municipal or public corporation, exempt from the present action? Formerly, undoubtedly it would have been, through the blind devotion of the courts to the case of Russell v. Inh. of Devon, 6 Durn. & East, 671; but of late years the law of corporations has been greatly modified under the decisions of our courts. Corporations no longer shield themselves from actions of tort or trespass, or from their contracts not under seal. (City of St. Louis v. Hospital Ass'n, 15 Mo. 592.) A careful examination of the authorities which shield public corporations from actions, will be shown to rest, all of them, on a single decision, and that the case already quoted, of Russell v. Inhab. of Devon. Ld. Kenyon decided that case adversely to the plaintiff, lest the principle would give rise to an infinity of actions; certainly a very flimsy reason, but principally because the county is not incorporated; and if incorporated, as the judgment would be against the corporation and not the corporators, the judgment would be fruitless, as there would be no corporate fund out of which to satisfy it.

Why, then, should the doctrine of the Men of Devon be sustained in this State? Here our counties can be sued, (§ 6, p. 503, R. C. 1855,) and may levy taxes to defray their expenses. (§ 1, p. 1349, R. C. 1855.) The doctrine that counties, as parts of the State sovereignty, can commit no laches, is exploded in this State. (St. Charles Co. v. Powell,

[36 Mo. 557]

22 Mo. 527; Callaway Co. v. Nolley, 31 Mo. 393,) and very properly, as the State itself has waived this exclusiveness, (§ 9, p. 1049, R. C. 1855,) and its constitution provides that it shall be sued. (§ 25, art. 3, p. 69, R. C. 1855.)

Our courts have sustained the decision of the Men of Devon, but have expressly saved the point involved in the present action. (Gurno v. City of St. Louis, 12 Mo. 424; Taylor v. City of St. Louis, 14 Mo. 24; Lambar v. City of St. Louis, 15 Mo. 613.)

Then that we should recover, we cite Bartlett v. Crozier, 17 Johnson, 439; City of Tallahassee v. Fortuna, 3 Flor. 25; Bacon v. City of Boston, 3 Cush. 174, which seem to be decided on common law principles and without reference to any statute; McCombs v. Akron, 15 Ohio, 479, re-affirmingRhodes v. Cleveland, 10 Ohio 159--in this last case, Russell v. Men of Devon is very correctly criticised. Ross v. Madison, 1 Ind. (Carter) 281; Wayne Co. Turnp. Co. v. Berry, 5 Ind. 286; Wheeler v. Troy, 20 N. H. 77--That the remedy exists at common law and independently of the statutes. The force of this decision, however, is impaired by that of Bell v. Town of Winchester, 32 N. H. 435, and in which the principle is questioned, though the case of Wheeler v. Troy, is neither quoted by counsel nor mentioned by the court, (Hutson v. City of New York, 5 Sanford, 296,) and in which the authorities are reviewed. Seagraves v. City of Alton, 13 Ills. 366; Browning v. City of Springfield, 17 Ills. 143--a very elaborate review of the cases pertinent to the question. In Commr's v. Martin, 4 Mich. 557, the principle of Russell v. Men of Devon is affirmed because the commissioners can assess only $250 for repairs; but where, as in the instance of St. Louis County, they have the power to tax for the necessary funds, the decision would not apply. (Conrad v. Village of Ithaca, 16 N. Y. 161, and cases cited in note a., containing a thorough review of the question. (Storrs v. City of Utica, 17 N. Y. 104; Mayor of...

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40 practice notes
  • Zoll v. St. Louis County, No. 34970.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • February 8, 1939
    ...court, and generally it has been held that recovery could not be had. We shall review some of these cases. Reardon v. St. Louis County, 36 Mo. 555, was an action for damages for the death of plaintiff's husband. The husband, while walking at night along a public highway, stepped off a bridg......
  • O'Dell v. School Dist. of Independence, No. 57474
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • March 10, 1975
    ...held generally that political subdivisions of the state are not subject to liability in suits for negligence. Reardon v. St. Louis County, 36 Mo. 555; Clark v. Adair County, 79 Mo. 536; State ex rel. Jordon v. Haynes, 72 Mo. 377; Cassidy v. City of St. Joseph, 247 Mo. 197, 152 S.W. 306; Lam......
  • Bd. of Com'rs of Jasper Cnty. v. Allman
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • November 25, 1895
    ...v. Hale Co., 54 Ala. 639;Granger v. Pulaski Co., 26 Ark. 37;Downing v. Mason Co., 87 Ky. 208, 8 S. W. 264;Reardon v. St. Louis Co., 36 Mo. 555;Swineford v. Franklin Co., 73 Mo. 279;Clark v. Adair Co., 79 Mo. 536;Gilman v. Contra Costa Co., 8 Cal. 52;Id., 68 Am. Dec. 290, and note on pages 2......
  • Board of Commissioners of Jasper County v. Allman, 17,386
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • November 25, 1895
    ...Granger v. Pulaski County, 26 Ark. 37; Downing v. Mason County, 87 Ky. 208, 12 Am. St. Rep. 437, 8 S.W. 264; Reardon v. St. Louis County, 36 Mo. 555; Swineford v. Franklin County, 73 Mo. 279; Clark v. Adair County, 79 Mo. 536; Gilman v. County of Contra Costa, 8 Cal. 52, 68 Am. Dec. 290, an......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
40 cases
  • Zoll v. St. Louis County, No. 34970.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • February 8, 1939
    ...court, and generally it has been held that recovery could not be had. We shall review some of these cases. Reardon v. St. Louis County, 36 Mo. 555, was an action for damages for the death of plaintiff's husband. The husband, while walking at night along a public highway, stepped off a bridg......
  • O'Dell v. School Dist. of Independence, No. 57474
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • March 10, 1975
    ...held generally that political subdivisions of the state are not subject to liability in suits for negligence. Reardon v. St. Louis County, 36 Mo. 555; Clark v. Adair County, 79 Mo. 536; State ex rel. Jordon v. Haynes, 72 Mo. 377; Cassidy v. City of St. Joseph, 247 Mo. 197, 152 S.W. 306; Lam......
  • Bd. of Com'rs of Jasper Cnty. v. Allman
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • November 25, 1895
    ...v. Hale Co., 54 Ala. 639;Granger v. Pulaski Co., 26 Ark. 37;Downing v. Mason Co., 87 Ky. 208, 8 S. W. 264;Reardon v. St. Louis Co., 36 Mo. 555;Swineford v. Franklin Co., 73 Mo. 279;Clark v. Adair Co., 79 Mo. 536;Gilman v. Contra Costa Co., 8 Cal. 52;Id., 68 Am. Dec. 290, and note on pages 2......
  • Board of Commissioners of Jasper County v. Allman, 17,386
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • November 25, 1895
    ...Granger v. Pulaski County, 26 Ark. 37; Downing v. Mason County, 87 Ky. 208, 12 Am. St. Rep. 437, 8 S.W. 264; Reardon v. St. Louis County, 36 Mo. 555; Swineford v. Franklin County, 73 Mo. 279; Clark v. Adair County, 79 Mo. 536; Gilman v. County of Contra Costa, 8 Cal. 52, 68 Am. Dec. 290, an......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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