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Baker v. City of Festus

418 S.W.2d 957 (1967)

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Baker v. City of Festus

Missouri Supreme Court

418 S.W.2d 957 (1967)

Facts

Ruth Baker’s body was found face down in a creek near a bridge in the City of Festus (the city) (defendant). Ruth’s son, Dale Baker (plaintiff), sued the city for the wrongful death of his mother, alleging the city allowed the bridge and sidewalk to become and remain in a dangerous and defective condition, which directly and proximately caused Ruth to fall and die. Adjacent to the roadway on the east side of the bridge was a sidewalk, and next to the sidewalk was a hip-high concrete banister that extended over the creek. However, there was a six- to seven-foot-wide open space between the end of the concrete banister and the adjacent sidewalk’s fence. In that gap, there was a four-foot drop from the sidewalk to the ground. However, the gap was not over the water where Ruth’s body was found 10 to 12 feet away. Dale argued that the city was negligent in leaving the opening at the end of the banister, and that Ruth fell through the gap and rolled into the creek 10 to 12 feet away. Ruth’s husband observed a mark on the ground near the opening of the banister. However, Dale did not notice that mark, no one saw Ruth fall, and there was no evidence of any marks on the bridge or sidewalk to show where she fell. There was also evidence that Ruth was subject to frequent epileptic seizures. Dale also introduced a photograph showing that the creek bank and the ground below the opening had tall grass and weeds and showing the paper sack with a pie and tomatoes Ruth was carrying. The tall grass and weeds were not mashed down or broken, and Ruth’s paper sack was floating in the water immediately below the concrete banister. The trial court entered a directed verdict for the city. Dale appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Finch, J.)

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