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Fletcher v. City of Aberdeen


    Citation. Fletcher v. Aberdeen, 54 Wn.2d 174, 338 P.2d 743, 1959 Wash. LEXIS 379 (Wash. 1959)

    Brief Fact Summary. Fletcher (Plaintiff), a blind man, fell into a ditch excavated by the City of Aberdeen (Defendant). Defendant failed to provide proper barricades up at the time Plaintiff fell. Plaintiff sued Defendant for negligence.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The duty of maintaining the sidewalks and adjacent parking strips is a continuing one. A city is obligated to afford that degree of protection, which would bring notice to a person with a physical disability, the danger being encountered.

    Facts. For the purpose of placing electric wires underground, the city (Defendant) dug a ditch in the parking strip adjacent to the sidewalk. Defendant erected suitable barricades to protect pedestrians from falling into the ditch. One of Defendant’s employees removed the barricades while working on another site and negligently failed to replace them. Plaintiff, a blind man, fell into the ditch while the barricades were down. By use of his cane, the barriers would have prevented Plaintiff from falling into the ditch. Plaintiff sued Defendant for negligence. The jury returned a verdict for Plaintiff and found that the city was negligent in removing the barriers without providing other warning.

    Issue. Must the city exercise a standard of care above that of an ordinary person for a disabled person?

    Held. Yes. Judgment for Plaintiff affirmed.
    * The duty of maintaining the sidewalks and the adjacent parking strips is a continuing one. In this case, the city is negligent when it removes proper and necessary barricades without giving pedestrians other types of warning.
    * The city is charged with knowledge that those who are physically infirm as well as those in perfect physical condition will use its streets. The person under a physical disability is obligated to use the care, which a reasonable person under the same or similar disability would exercise under the circumstances. The city is obligated to use the care, which would give notice to a physically disabled person a danger to be encountered.

    Discussion. In this case the court held that Defendant, a city, is obligated at all times to warn pedestrians of dangers encountered on the sidewalk, whether that pedestrian be physically disabled or in perfect health.


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