City of Providence v. Clapp,
58 U.S. 161 (1854)

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U.S. Supreme Court

City of Providence v. Clapp, 58 U.S. 17 How. 161 161 (1854)

City of Providence v. Clapp

58 U.S. (17 How.) 161


The statutes of Rhode Island require towns to keep the highways safe and convenient for travelers at all seasons of the year, and in case of neglect, "that they shall be liable to all persons, who may in anywise suffer injury to their persons or property, by reason of any such neglect."

These statutes extend to cities as well as towns or townships, and also to sidewalks where they constitute a part of the public highways. The City of Providence was therefore bound to keep those sidewalks convenient and safe in a reasonable degree for pedestrians, and when a fall of snow took place, it was the duty of the city to use ordinary care and diligence to restore the sidewalk to a reasonably safe and convenient state.

It was for the jury to find whether or not this was accomplished by treading down the snow, and if not, whether the want of safety and convenience was owing to the want of ordinary care and diligence on the part of the city.

In considering whether due diligence required the city to remove the snow, the jury ought to take into consideration the ordinances enacted by the city not as prescribing a rule binding on the city, but as evidence of the fact that a removal, and not a treading down of the snow, was reasonably necessary.

This was a suit brought by Clapp against the City of Providence to recover damages for an injury occasioned by an obstruction on the sidewalk in one of its principal streets. The

Page 58 U. S. 162

obstruction consisted of a ridge of hard-trodden snow and ice on the center of the sidewalk, along which the plaintiff was passing in the night time, and by means of which he fell across the ridge, breaking his thigh-bone in an oblique direction. The jury found a verdict for the plaintiff and assessed his damages at $3,379.50.

The circumstances of the case, and the rulings of the court which gave rise to the bills of exceptions upon which the case came up, are stated in the opinion of the Court.

Page 58 U. S. 165

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