Wolff v. District of Columbia
United States Supreme Court
WOLFF v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Argued: November 11, 1904. --- Decided: January 3, 1905
This is an action for damages for injury caused to plaintiff in error (who was also plaintiff below) by an alleged negligent omission of duty by the District of Columbia.
On the 27th of October, 1895, about 9 o'clock in the evening, plaintiff had occasion to visit Sangerbun hall, house on C street, in the city of Washington. On coming out, and for the purpose of approaching a wagon which was standing in the street, he walked rapidly across the sidewalk and, by falling over a block of stone called a stepping stone or carriage step, which was on the sidewalk near the curb, broke his leg. Some time subsequently he was compelled to submit to its amputation.
The charge against the city was that it was a body corporate and municipal, and had the power, and it was its duty, to keep the sidewalks free of obstructions and nuisances, one of which, it was alleged, said stone was. And further, that it was the duty of the District of Columbia to keep the streets properly lighted. In neglect of both, it was alleged, it did 'allow and suffer' the stone to be securely fastened into and remain upon the sidewalk, and did 'keep and continue' it there during the nighttime of the 27th of October, without a light to show its presence or a watchman to notify wayfarers of its existence. Damages were laid at $25,000. The District of Columbia pleaded not guilty. A jury was impaneled. At the conclusion of the testimony the District moved the court to instruct a verdict for it on the ground that the plaintiff had not made out a case. The motion was granted, and a verdict in accordance with the instructions. A motion for a new trial was made and denied, and the case was then taken to the court of appeals, which affirmed the judgment of the court below. 21 App. D. C. 464.
Messrs. John C. Gittings and D. W. Baker for plaintiff in error.
[Argument of Counsel from page 153 intentionally omitted]
Messrs. E. H. Thomas and Andrew B. Duvall for defendant in error.
[Argument of Counsel from pages 154-155 intenionally omitted]
Mr. Justice McKenna delivered the opinion of the court: