Sued over a sidewalk


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In October 1911, a small item was published in the regular list of council business.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/06/2012 (3947 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In October 1911, a small item was published in the regular list of council business.

“It was resolved: That the request of the Canadian Northern Railway Co. for sidewalk on Ninth street, in front of the hotel and station be granted, the same to be paid for by the railway in cash.”

Although aldermen for the rapidly growing Brandon were continually dealing with requests from residents and businesses for street upgrades, what makes this particular item noteworthy is its backstory.

A couple of years earlier, while the city was busily courting the CNR, trying to entice the company to build a new depot and then a big, first-class hotel in Brandon, both the city and the railway were distracted by a pesky lawsuit.

On a November evening in 1907, a Mrs. Annie Ardies had been walking past the old CNR depot on Ninth Street, when she stepped into a hole in the wooden sidewalk, injuring her ankle.

Although she tried to ignore the pain and continue to work, she later said that her doctor ordered her to bed rest, and prescribed her medication.

She wrote a letter to the city, asking $50 in compensation for the broken plank. The letter was, evidently, ignored.

So in February 1908, she had her lawyer write a letter — this time asking for $500, and threatening to increase the amount if the city forced her to sue.

The city referred it to committee, which said the sidewalk was probably the railway’s responsibility. They passed the buck to the city’s solicitor.

In May, having heard nothing, Ardies launched her suit, by now demanding $5,000 — an astonishing amount, given that he city was regularly issuing permits to build houses for less than $1,000.

The Brandon Daily Sun followed the case with detail. Evidence was presented that the sidewalk was nearly 20 years old — the city clerk said that he had no record of one ever being laid outside the station.

Ardies, when it came her turn to testify, said that “her doctor’s bill had cost her $40, her medicine bill $10, and the inconvenience she had been put to, she would not go through again for less than $3,000.”

The city tried to wriggle out of the case on a technicality, arguing that Ardies had failed to notify them early enough. But in June, the judge ruled in her favour, although not for the full amount.

“I think that $300 will compensate the plaintiff,” wrote Justice Macdonald in a judgement that was published in the Sun.

At their next meeting, a week later, city council decided not to appeal court’s decision. But later that year, after construction of the CNR’s new depot was well under way, they apparently had a change of heart.

Except, city council didn’t want the money back from Mrs. Ardies. Instead, they felt that the railway should pay up. After all, the sidewalk was outside their office. And it had likely been laid by the railway, not the city.

So they drew up and sent a letter to the CNR laywer — who declined to accept responsibility.

The city, in a huff, referred it to their own solicitor.

And that was apparently the last of it to hit the newspaper. Until that brief item, three years later, when the city said they would replace the sidewalk. And the railway would pay.

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