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CHICAGO CITY V. ROBBINS, 67 U. S. 418 (1862)

U.S. Supreme Court

Chicago City v. Robbins, 67 U.S. 2 Black 418 418 (1862)

Chicago City v. Robbins

67 U.S. (2 Black) 418


1. A municipal corporation, having the exclusive care and control of the streets, is obliged to see that they are kept safe for the passage of persons and property and to abate all nuisances that might prove dangerous; if this duty be neglected, and in consequence thereof anyone is injured, the corporation will be liable for the damages sustained.

2. The corporation has, however, a remedy over against a private party who has so used the streets as to produce the injury unless the corporation concurred in the wrong.

3. A private party is concluded by a judgment recovered against a corporation for his act or negligence if he knew that the suit was pending and could have defended it.

4. An express notice to such party to defend the suit is not necessary to create his liability.

5. But in an action brought by a corporation against such party to recover back the damages it has been compelled to pay for his assumed neglect, it is competent for the defendant to show that he was under no obligation to keep the street in safe condition and that it was not through his default that the accident happened.

6. In such case, if it appears that there was fault both on the part of the corporation and defendant, the former cannot recover,

Page 67 U. S. 419

for the reason that one of two joint wrongdoers cannot have contribution from the other.

7. If a nuisance necessarily occurs in the ordinary mode of doing work, the occupant or owner is liable, but if it happened by the negligence of the contractor or his servants, the contractor alone is responsible.

8. Where rules of property in a state are fully settled by a series of adjudications, this Court adopts the decisions of the state courts.

9. But where private rights are to be determined by the application of common law rules alone, this Court, although entertaining for state tribunals the highest respect, does not feel bound by their decisions.

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