Lorenzo v. Wirth

170 Mass. 596, 49 N.E. 1010 (1898)



That the defendant is not liable for injuries caused by the existence of an unguarded hole upon the premises in question if the plaintiff's injuries were due to the fact of its proximity to the highway where the plaintiff was a traveller, and from which she wandered without invitation of the defendant. If the plaintiff went upon the premises in the defendant's control without invitation, express or implied, and fell into the coal hole in question, she cannot recover for injuries caused thereby.


Plaintiff was injured when she fell at night into a coal hole located on a sidewalk on the landowner's property. At the time of the accident, a coal wagon was backed up to the side of the landowner's home, and coal covered the entire sidewalk. The sidewalk was indistinguishable from the street. Plaintiff sued the landowner to recover damages for the personal injuries that she sustained, arguing that the landowner breached a duty to her. The trial court granted judgment to plaintiff, and the landowner filed exceptions to the trial court's judgment, arguing that plaintiff was a trespasser. Plaintiff countered that the sidewalk was virtually indistinguishable from the street. 


Was there a breach of duty owed to the plaintiff?




The court held that the landowner did not breach a duty to plaintiff. The landowner was not required to stand guard and inform the public that the pavement continued under the coal and that there was a hole underneath the coal. A heap of coal on a city sidewalk was an indication that there may have been a coal hole to receive it.

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