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JAMA 100 Years Ago
March 15, 2000

No Appeal From Order of Board of Health.

Author Affiliations

JenniferReiling, Editorial Assistant

JAMA. 2000;283(11):1393. doi:10.1001/jama.283.11.1393-JJY00005-2-1

By statute, the town council of any town in Rhode Island may order the owner or occupant of any premises in such town to remove, at his own expense, any nuisance, source of filth, filth, or cause of sickness, found thereon, within twenty-four hours, or what it may deem a reasonable time after notice. A council, having the same powers as town councils, sitting as a board of health, declared certain premises to be a nuisance, which it ordered abated in a specified manner. One of the persons ordered to abate the nuisance took an appeal from the order to the common pleas division, where, upon a motion in behalf of the council, it was dismissed on the ground that no appeal lies from such an order. And this ruling, the Supreme Court of Rhode Island holds correct; Brown vs. District Council of Narragansett. It says that the statute neither provides for, nor contemplates an appeal from, such an order. The proceeding is evidently intended to be summary, and, in order to be effectual, it necessarily must be so; for, to permit a nuisance to exist until an appeal could be tried, together with such further proceedings in connection therewith as might be had, might seriously endanger the health and lives of an entire community. Suppose the smallpox, or some other contagious or infectious distemper, should break out in any house or family in a town, and the town council should order the infected persons to be confined in the house, or be removed to the hospital provided for such cases; could it be contended for a moment that an appeal would lie from such an order, and that the party against whom the order ran would have the right to a jury trial, with all the delays incident to such a proceeding? The mere statement of such a contention shows its utter absurdity. Prompt and vigorous action in cases affecting the health of the community is frequently of the very highest importance; and the statutes intended to promote the health and safety thereof should be so construed, if possible, as to make them immediately effective.

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