Sunday, June 5, 2016

Roadway Defects in 1285 England

            In New York, if one is injured by a roadway defect, then a lawsuit can be brought against the owner of that roadside - many times the State or a municipality (a village or town).  However, whether one succeeds in such a lawsuit often depends on whether there is prior written notice of the defect, or if the owner created the defect - strict requirements imposed by law.  Unfortunately, as a result, often times roadway (as well as other area) defects do not get repaired until an accident or tragedy occurs (including a serious injury or death).

            According to Danny Danziger and John Gillingham in their book "1215, The Year of Magna Carta," major roadways in England in the 12th and 13th centuries generally had to be properly maintained, as required by the King - and this was not dependent on requirements such as "prior written notice" or otherwise.  The authors note one instance in particular, where in 1285 Edward I strongly reminded the priory and townspeople of Dunstable of their obligation with respect to Icknield Way and Watling Street:

            "We have learnt that the high roads going through your town are so damaged and pitted by the heavy traffic of carts that those using them are in constant danger of being badly injured.  We therefore command you, each and every one of you according to your station and resources, to ensure that the roads are mended and the holes filled as has been done in times past.  Otherwise it will be necessary for us to move in and with a heavy hand."

Salvatore R. Marino, Esq.