What does “of” mean?

When a county sues a town, it can get confusing. In Calumet County vs. the Town of Harrison, Calumet County sued the Town for the Town’s failure to pay the County for removing snow from a county owned sidewalk along a county highway.  The County apparently felt the Town was responsible for removing all snow from all sidewalks in the Town, no matter who owned them.  The circuit court disagreed and held for the Town.  The appeals court also held for the Town.

This case makes for interesting reading, if only because it shows the lengths parties will sometimes go to in court cases. The entire case was, more or less, about the meaning of the word “of.”  Of course, the court of appeals only gives us those facts that it relies on to make its decision, and there are almost always two sides to every story, but the County does not come out very well in this one.  The statute states that the town shall remove snow and ice from the sidewalks “of” the town.  The county argued that this meant all sidewalks within the town.  The Town argued that this meant all sidewalks owned by the Town, and the courts agreed with the Town.

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