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Blyth v. Birmingham Water Works
Court of Exchequer
156 Eng. Rep. 1047 (Ex. 1856)
Birmingham Water Works (Birmingham) (defendant) owned a nonprofit waterworks. Birmingham was tasked with laying water mains and fire plugs in the city streets according to statutory specifications. On February 24, 1855, a fire plug laid by Birmingham broke and allowed water to escape into the home of Blyth (plaintiff). The fire plug had worked well for 25 years. On January 15, 1855, the city had experienced one of the most severe frosts in recorded history, which continued until after the accident. The ground was covered with ice and snow, and the fire plug itself was covered with a buildup of ice. Blyth sued Birmingham for damages. At trial, the trial judge stated that if Birmingham had removed the ice from the plug, the accident would not have occurred. However, the judge permitted the jury to consider whether Birmingham had exercised the proper level of care to prevent the accident. The jury returned a verdict for Blyth, and Birmingham appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Alderson, B.)
Concurrence (Bramwell, B.)
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