A COMMONSENSE DECISION.
A RECENT decision in a British court of justice, founded on equity and commonsense, may possibly be of value in this country should any question for damages arise in a similar case. Some two years ago a fire broke out in the People’s Palace theatre, Aberdeen, Scotland, which caused injuries to members of the audience. These persons brought suit against the proprietors for damages on account of the hurts thereby received, and were successful in every instance. To be sure, the amounts received aggregated only $5,000 all told; but a principle was established by the verdict which will not be forgotten when another occasion of a like kind arises. The lord justice clerk (the presiding judge) in summing up said that
if people invited others to a certain place, then they were in a measure responsible for their safety. It was the duty of the person giving the invitation to see that his house and appliances were such as to afford safety.
This principle, if universally applied, will strike not only at the managers of theatres, but also at the architects of the buildings themselves, who will thus be held responsible as well for planning, as for seeing to the carrying out of their plans to make a building that shall be as safe as human ingenuity can make it. If they have done their part and the building department on its side has first passed the plans as safe and then pronounced the finished structure safe in every respect, the responsibility for damages, in case of injury or death to any of the audience, will, in that case, lie between the manager, whose duty it is to carry out all the ordinances bearing upon the public safety in this respect, and the municipal authorities charged with seeing that the manager does what is required of him. In this way, then, the public will be the gainer all round, and the number of deathtraps in the shape of theatres, concert halls, and other places of amusement—to say nothing of churches and rooms for public gatherings—will be reduced to a minimum.