Bilton Mach. Tool Co. v. United Illuminating Co.

CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtWHEELER, C.J.
Citation148 A. 337,110 Conn. 417
Decision Date06 January 1930
PartiesBILTON MACHINE TOOL CO. v. UNITED ILLUMINATING CO.

148 A. 337

110 Conn. 417

BILTON MACHINE TOOL CO.
v.
UNITED ILLUMINATING CO.

Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut.

January 6, 1930


Appeal from Superior Court, Fairfield County; Earnest C. Simpson, Judge.

Action for damages and equitable relief by the Bilton Machine Tool Company against the United Illuminating Company. Judgment for defendant, and plaintiff appeals. Error, and judgment reversed and directed.

The defendant is a public utility company supplying electric current for light and power in Bridgeport and elsewhere in Connecticut. In January, 1916, the Parsons Foundry Company moved to a location in Bridgeport adjoining the Standard Manufacturing Company. Mr. Bilton was president of the first named company and secretary and treasurer of the second, as well as general manager of both. In March, 1916, the Parsons Company, acting through Mr. Bilton, entered into a five-year written contract, terminable by either party two years from the date thereof, upon six months' notice, by which defendant was to furnish at its expense necessary transformers and meters for the service contracted for and to supply the company with electric power up to 200 horse power upon a sliding scale at stated rates. [148 A. 338]

Subsequently defendant informed Mr. Bilton that current for power for the Standard Company could be combined and furnished through the equipment through which power was furnished the Parsons Company, thus giving to each company the full benefit of the sliding scale as provided in the Parsons contract, which would be a much lower rate than was then in general use with defendant's customers. In consequence of these representations, the plaintiff and defendant agreed on about January 1, 1917, that [110 Conn. 420] defendant should furnish power to the Standard Company through the equipment installed for the Parsons Company. At this time a meter was installed in the transformer house on land of the Parsons Company for the purpose of measuring the current for power consumed by the Standard Company. This meter was not used by defendant. The current so supplied to these companies was billed to, and in the name of, the Parsons Foundry Company, on a single sliding scale rate, giving these companies the benefit of a combined billing or rate in conformity with the Parsons contract. On May 1, 1917, the Standard and Parsons Companies were merged into the Bilton Machine Tool Company, plaintiff herein, and thereby passed out of existence, and the business of the Parsons Company was carried on as a foundry department and that of the Standard Company carried on as a machine tool department of the plaintiff. The Bilton Company succeeded to the Parsons contract, and, from the date of the merger until October 1, 1917, was supplied under that contract and at the rates specified therein with all current that it used; a single bill covering the entire cost of the current consumed. About October 1, 1917, the power used by these departments exceeded the maximum load under the Parsons contract; in consequence a transformer burned out.

In order to furnish the increased power and in accordance with defendant's practice, it was necessary for plaintiff to sign an application for a new contract. It was advantageous to plaintiff to continue to get its current for the foundry department under the rates provided in the Parsons [110 Conn. 421] contract, and Mr. Bilton was unwilling to combine the consumption of current used by these two departments on one meter with one new account and at the increased cost over the Parsons contract rate, and elected to retain that contract which covered the power furnished the foundry department. He accordingly signed an application, order, and contract for a larger transformer and meter for the purpose of furnishing the necessary power for the machine tool department, and defendant installed an additional transformer and a second meter. The rates charged for this department were higher than the Parsons contract rate, but were the rates charged all consumers under each application and as changed from time to time. After October 1, 1917, and down to September 14, 1918, the defendant sent plaintiff two bills each month, one in the name of the Parsons Foundry Company and one in the name of the Bilton Machine Tool Company--the first named figured as per Parsons contract rates; the last named at the rates charged all consumers. The defendant knew of the merger at least from the date of this application. The plaintiff knew between October 1, 1917, and September 14, 1918, that it was in receipt of two bills from defendant for power consumed by it, which were figured on a different sliding scale of rates.

The defendant, exercising its rights, canceled the Parsons contract, effective on September 14, 1918, From this date to December 9, 1924, the defendant sent plaintiff, monthly, two separate bills, one made in the name of the Parsons Foundry Company and one in the name of the plaintiff, which were taken from the two ledger accounts maintained by it. The defendant, after its cancellation of the Parsons contract and after the merger, continued to carry on its books the old ledger account in the name of the Parsons Foundry Company. Each bill was figured separately at the prevailing sliding scale rate, and was greatly in excess of what the charge would have been if these accounts had been combined. [110 Conn. 422] From September 14, 1918, to December 9, 1924, the advantage to the plaintiff in the maintenance of two separate accounts did not exist as theretofore.

It would have been to the large pecuniary benefit of plaintiff from September 14, 1918, to December 9, 1924, to have had these accounts combined and the current consumed figured under a single sliding scale.

At no time after its notice of cancellation, March 14, 1918, did defendant notify plaintiff of the manner in which it was figuring these bills, although defendant fully knew that its charges were largely in excess of its prevailing rates if one account was kept and one monthly bill rendered, combining the existing accounts, as the plaintiff was entitled to have done. Nor did defendant suggest to plaintiff between these dates that it could by having these accounts combined secure a large pecuniary benefit.

The bills went regularly through plaintiff's different departments, and were regularly checked, vouchered, and approved for payment. All employees through whom they passed knew that two bills upon the same rates were being received monthly during this period. But, so far as appeared, there was nothing which indicated to them that the plaintiff was entitled to a single billing with the expense of changing the installation and meter or that the change would be of large pecuniary advantage to plaintiff. From the cancellation to his retirement as an officer of plaintiff and down to the beginning of this action, Mr. Bilton believed that the plaintiff was [148 A. 339] getting the benefit of a combined sliding scale rate, and did not know of any change from this method until the bringing of this action. Mr. Grippin did not know of this, nor so far as appears did any officer of the plaintiff, until Mr. Grippin was so informed in December, 1924.

During the period between September 14, 1918, [110 Conn. 423] and December 9, 1924, customers of the defendant of the same class and similarly situated with plaintiff as to equipment were charged upon the basis of a single sliding scale per kilowatt hour and upon a totalized reading of the current consumed measured through the meters used, and not upon the basis of a charge per sliding scale in proportion to the number of meters served when a single contract, order, or application had been issued for the entire load; but plaintiff did not know of this practice of defendant.

The practice and policy of defendant from 1915 to 1924 was to induce consumers of electric current for power to combine their loads on one meter and one account and to render separate bills for each separate account and to only open...

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4 practice notes
  • May Department Stores Co. v. Union E.L. & P. Co., No. 34288.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • 30 Junio 1937
    ...cannot be denied because of Union's neglect to request and have plaintiff sign a contract. Bilton Machine Tool Co. v. United Ill. Co., 110 Conn. 417, 148 Atl. 337. (a) Plaintiff's right to recover cannot be defeated by defendant's failure to ascertain measured "demand." St. Louis ......
  • Pitt v. City of Stamford
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 8 Agosto 1933
    ...It in no way contributed to the errors and mistakes made by the defendant." In Bilton Machine Tool Co. v. United Illuminating Co., 110 Conn. 417, 148 A. 337, 67 A.L.R. 814, the classification of rates for electric current and the procedure in making up the charges and bills against the......
  • Ficken v. Edward's Inc., No. CV
    • United States
    • Circuit Court of Connecticut
    • 3 Mayo 1962
    ...paid. See Texas Co. v. Crown Petroleum Corporation, 137 Conn. 217, 226, 75 A.2d 499; Bilton Machine Tool Co. v. United Illuminating Co., 110 Conn. 417, 431, 148 A. 337, 67 A.L.R. 814. That the plaintiff was under no legal or moral obligation to pay appears so plainly that it requires no fur......
  • Caputo v. Di Loreto
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 6 Enero 1930
    ...does not purport to be a contract under seal, an inspection of it discloses no intention to make it such, nor is there any evidence [110 Conn. 417] aliunde as to the intention of the maker. Our decision must depend largely upon our statute (Gen. St. § 5742), and authorities from other juris......
4 cases
  • May Department Stores Co. v. Union E.L. & P. Co., No. 34288.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • 30 Junio 1937
    ...cannot be denied because of Union's neglect to request and have plaintiff sign a contract. Bilton Machine Tool Co. v. United Ill. Co., 110 Conn. 417, 148 Atl. 337. (a) Plaintiff's right to recover cannot be defeated by defendant's failure to ascertain measured "demand." St. Louis ......
  • Pitt v. City of Stamford
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 8 Agosto 1933
    ...It in no way contributed to the errors and mistakes made by the defendant." In Bilton Machine Tool Co. v. United Illuminating Co., 110 Conn. 417, 148 A. 337, 67 A.L.R. 814, the classification of rates for electric current and the procedure in making up the charges and bills against the......
  • Ficken v. Edward's Inc., No. CV
    • United States
    • Circuit Court of Connecticut
    • 3 Mayo 1962
    ...paid. See Texas Co. v. Crown Petroleum Corporation, 137 Conn. 217, 226, 75 A.2d 499; Bilton Machine Tool Co. v. United Illuminating Co., 110 Conn. 417, 431, 148 A. 337, 67 A.L.R. 814. That the plaintiff was under no legal or moral obligation to pay appears so plainly that it requires no fur......
  • Caputo v. Di Loreto
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 6 Enero 1930
    ...does not purport to be a contract under seal, an inspection of it discloses no intention to make it such, nor is there any evidence [110 Conn. 417] aliunde as to the intention of the maker. Our decision must depend largely upon our statute (Gen. St. § 5742), and authorities from other juris......

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