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Stubbs v. City of Rochester

Court of Appeals of New York
124 N.E. 137 (1919)


Facts

The City of Rochester (the city) (defendant) maintained separate water systems for drinking, known as the Hemlock system, and for firefighting, known as the Holly system. In May 1910 the two systems intermingled near the Brown Street Bridge, and the Hemlock system became contaminated with sewage present in the Holly system. The contamination was not discovered until October 1910. Stubbs (plaintiff) worked at a factory one block from the Brown Street Bridge, where he drank water daily. Stubbs did not leave the city during the summer of 1910, and only drank water from within the city. When he became ill with typhoid fever in September 1910, he brought suit against the city for negligence. At trial, evidence was presented that typhoid fever has many causes, including drinking contaminated water, interacting with an infected person, and causes that are as yet unknown. Stubbs presented nearly sixty witnesses from the area who drank the contaminated water and contracted typhoid fever. Expert medical testimony indicated the outbreak of typhoid cases in the city, including Stubbs’ illness, was caused by drinking contaminated water. The trial court granted a nonsuit against Stubbs, dismissing his claim before it could reach the jury. The Appellate Division affirmed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Hogan, J.)

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