Stubbs v. City of Rochester (Ct App NY 1919)

Stubbs v. City of Rochester
Ct App NY 1919
  • Defendant supplied water to the plaintiff maintaining two pipelines
    1. Hemlock – Potable drinking water
    2. Holly – For firefighting and Street Cleaning
  • Pipes inadvertantly got crossed and the dirty Holly water ended up in townspeople’s homes
  • The Holly water contained polluted water not fully cleansed of sewage
  • Plaintiff became ill fom Typhoid fever which can be cause by a number of elemnets
    1. Drinking polluted water
    2. Raw fruits and veggies that were grown using human excrement to fertilize the soil
    3. Consumption of shellfish (Not common)
    4. Infected Milk and veggies
    5. Houseflies in certain localities
    6. Contact with infected person
    7. Ice with typhoid bacilli
    8. Fruits Veggies etc washed in contaminated water
    9. UKNOWN vague medical causes
  • Important question…Did the plaintiff provided evidence that reasonably establishes his illness was due to the contaminated water?
  • Doctors opinion believes the cause of typhoid is the the cause
  • Dr. Goler did tests on the water and found increased chlorine, solids, etc. and also talked to people who were sick. From this evidence the Dr concluded that the townspeople go the typhoid from the water, Dr Dodge reached the same conclusion, his tests however did not discover bacteria BUT did find some evidence of it.
  • Dr. Brady  (for D) says that’s not how they got typhoid
    • Defendant argues that
      1. Evidence fails to establish
      2. The plaintiff had to prove that his illness was not from any other cause
  • 57 witness who drank the water a got typhoid fever
    • Court belives this and doesnt require a witness testimony
  • Defense claims interpretation of a Rule that
    1. When there is one or more possible cause plaintiff cannot recover without proving that defendant’s action was, in whole OR in part, the cause
    2. Becasue typhoid is cause by Unknown causes this would essentially force the P to disprove unknown causes, which is obvi impossible.
  • Judge does not feel this rule is so inflexible as to require the P to disprove all other causes
    • “If two or more possible cases exist, for only one of which a defendant may be liable, and a party injured establishes facts from which it can be said with reasonable certainty that the direct cause of the injury was the one for which the defendant was liable the party has complied with the spirit of the rule”
    • It is suficiant for the P to prove with Reasonable Certainty that the direct cause of harm resulted from the D actions
  • But for the citys crossing the lines would the P cathc typhoid?
  • Reversed and new trial granted

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