Robertson v. City of Waukon

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Citation138 Iowa 25,115 N.W. 482
Decision Date19 March 1908


Appeal from District Court, Allamakee County; A. N. Hobson, Judge.

Suit to recover damages occasioned by a defective sidewalk. There was a directed verdict for the defendant, and from a judgment thereon the plaintiff appeals. Reversed.William S. Hart and Stilwell & Stilwell, for appellant.

Dayton & Dayton and H. H. Stilwell, for appellee.


In 1902 the plaintiff had a contract for carrying the mail between the post office and the railway station in the city of Waukon. He had performed this service for many years prior thereto, making several trips to and from the office each day. Early in the morning of April 7th he went to the office with his horse and wagon for the purpose of taking the mail to the railway station. He stopped his conveyance near the north end of the sidewalk in front of the office and sent his young son in for the mail sacks. After he had entered the office, the plaintiff concluded that he would need help, and stepped from this wagon onto one of the planks in the walk for the purpose of going into the office to assist his son in removing the mail sacks therefrom to the wagon. He stepped upon a plank which was near the north end of the post office walk, and it gave way under his weight, and he received the injury complained of. The trial court held that the plaintiff was guilty of contributory negligence as a matter of law and sustained the defendant's motion for a directed verdict. Whether he was justified in so doing is the only question for determination.

The evidence shows without any substantial conflict that the sidewalk in front of the post office building was, as a whole, in a decidedly dilapidated and unsafe condition, and that it had been in such condition for a long time. The stringers under all of the plank were badly rotted, and many of them were broken, and, as some of the witnesses testified, the walk would spring up and down under the weight of the travelers thereon. The plank upon which the plaintiff stepped had a broken end. It was split back from the front end some distance, and a piece of the end, about half the width of the plank, was gone leaving a hole. The plaintiff stepped onto the plank just beyond the hole without noticing or knowing the split continued beyond it, and his weight sprung the split piece down and his foot was caught. It should also be said that just as he stepped on the plank his attention was for a moment diverted by the call of a man with whom he had other business. The appellee contends that the plaintiff knew the exact condition of the walk, and that he knew it was imprudent for him to pass over the defect; that there were other convenient and direct ways which he...

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