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Historic Public Health and Communicable Disease Cases

When is the water company liable for typhoid in the water supply? - Buckingham v. Plymouth Water Co., 21 A.Rep. 824 (Penn. 1891)

This is an appeal from the lower court's dismissal of a claims of negligence by Mr. William Buckingham against Plymouth Water Company.  Mr. Buckingham claims that Plymouth was negligent in maintaining its water and allowed it to become contaminated with Typhoid Fever.  As a result, Mr. Buckingham's two children contracted Typhoid Fever and died.  It seems that the town water supply was taken from a creek that flowed down a mountain.  Along this creek were several dams.  Between the third and forth dam sat a house about 60 feet from the water.  In 1885 there was a case of Typhoid Fever in this house.  During this period of sickness some human waste was ejected from the house and onto the ground.  This waste was covered by the winter snow. In February of this same year there was an early thaw and the matter was carried into the water supply.  This caused the epidemic of Typhoid in the town of Plymouth in which Mr. Buckingham's children died. The lower court found that there was no evidence to show that Plymouth Water Company negligently maintained the water supply.  Plymouth did not own the land that the contaminated matter was on.  The evidence also showed that the owner of the company occasionally walked along the banks of the water supply and had done so prior to the outbreak of Typhoid Fever in Plymouth and found nothing unusual with the water or facilities.  Since the evidence did not show that the company had been negligent the lower court dismissed Mr. Buckingham's suit. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania affirmed this dismissal.

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