Washington Law Review


A question which from the standpoint of decisions is seemingly unique was raised in the case of Locke v. Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Co. et al, 78 Wash. Dec. 40, 33 Pac. (2d) 1077 (1934), concerning the liability of users of abandoned property The city of Seattle erected a pole in 1905 on a parking strip bordering one of its streets, for the purpose of carrying the wires of the city's light plant. In 1926 the city removed all of its wires from the pole, and shortly thereafter the defendant telephone company placed a single drop wire on the pole which ran from their main line to the house of a subscriber in front of which the pole stood. This single wire remained on the pole until 1932 when the pole, because of its old and decayed condition, fell across the street and was struck by the plaintiff's auto without any fault on his part. The telephone company was a mere trespasser on the pole, and its drop wire was not a cause of the accident. In an action brought by the plaintiff for personal injuries against the city of Seattle and the telephone company a jury verdict was given in favor of the plaintiff against both defendants, judgment was entered against the city, and a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict was granted in favor of the telephone company Both the plaintiff and the city appeal from the granting of this motion in favor of the telephone company It was held that the defendant telephone company did not have such control over the pole as to create the affirmative duty to inspect and repair running to the public, and that in fact they had no legal right to repair or to remove the pole, and hence were not liable. There is a vigorous dissent by Chief Justice Beals in whose opinion the control exercised by the telephone company was sufficient to create such a duty

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