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The law requires a degree of care upon the part of one whose eye-sight is impaired proportioned to the degree of his impairment of vision. He is bound to use the care which would be exercised by an ordinary prudent person, and in passing upon the question of his negligence due consideration should be given to blindness or other infirmities. In the exercise of common prudence, one of defective eye-sight must usually, as a matter of general knowledge, take more care and employ keener watchfulness in walking upon the streets and avoiding obstructions; in order to reach the standard established by law for all persons alike, whether they be sound or deficient.
Defendant Sneller, a plumber, under contract to make a sewer connection with one of the houses on the street, had entered into an agreement with defendant Lomastro under which the latter did the necessary digging. Because of defective eyesight, plaintiff, who was walking upon a sidewalk, did not see a pile of earth in front of him and had no notice that the trench, into which he fell, was nearby. Consequently, plaintiff brought an action in trespass for personal injuries against the defendants. The Common Pleas Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff. The decision was reversed by the Pennsylvania superior court, holding that plaintiff was guilty of contributory negligence. Plaintiff appealed.
Under the circumstances, was the plaintiff guilty of contributory negligence, thereby barring his recovery for the injuries he sustained when he fell into a trench dug by the defendant?
The court held that the law required a degree of care upon the part of one whose eye-sight was impaired proportioned to the degree of his impairment of vision. He was bound to use the care which would be exercised by an ordinary prudent person. The court held that in the exercise of common prudence, one of defective-eyesight should usually, as a matter of general knowledge, take more care and employ keener watchfulness in walking upon the streets and avoiding obstructions. The court found that it was common knowledge, which was chargeable to the plaintiff, that obstructions and defects were not uncommon in the sidewalks of a city. In affirming the judgment, the court agreed with the superior court's holding that a blind man could not rely wholly upon his other senses to warn him of danger but should use the devices usually employed to compensate for his blindness. Thus, the court held that the plaintiff was guilty of contributory negligence as a matter of law.