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William W. Ferguson vs. Edward G. Gies

William W. Ferguson vs. Edward G. Gies

Supreme Court of Michigan

June 4, 1890, Argued  

October 10, 1890, Decided

Prior History: Error to Wayne. (Gartner, J.) Argued June 4, 1890. Decided October 10, 1890.  

Disposition: The judgment is reversed, and a new trial granted, with costs of both courts.  

Case Summary:

Procedural Posture: Plaintiff customer appealed a judgment based on a jury verdict of the Wayne County Circuit Court (Michigan) in favor of defendant restaurant manager, in the customer’s action for damages for refusal of service because of his race.

Overview: The customer said he was denied service by the restaurant except in the saloon. The manager admitted that he refused to serve refreshments of any kind to the customer at the table where he sat, for no reason other than he was black. The Manager said seating was offered in a part of the restaurant, not the saloon, but situated in a more private place, as the bar could hide the cus-tomer from the view of those in the front part of the place. The trial court instructed the jury that the restaurant could reserve certain tables for white men, and others where black men would be served, providing was no unjust discrimination: and “full and equal” did not mean identical accommoda-tions, but substantially the same. On appeal, the court held that the fault of the instruction was that they permitted discrimination on account of race. The jury, under the manager’s own version, should have been instructed to find a verdict for the customer. 1885 Mich. Pub. Acts 130 gave the customer a civil action for damages. The only question that should have been submitted to the jury was the amount of the customer’s damages.

Outcome: The judgment was revered. A new trial was granted.

Syllabus: Case. Plaintiff brings error. Reversed. The facts are stated in the opinion.  

Counsel: D. A. Straker, for appellant.

William Look and H. F. Chipman, for defendant.  

Judges: Morse, J. The other Justices concurred.  

Opinion By: Morse

Opinion: The defendant, at and before the

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