City of Williamsport v. Williamsport Water Co.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Writing for the CourtSCHAFFER, J.
Citation150 A. 652
PartiesCITY OF WILLIAMSPORT v. WILLIAMSPORT WATER CO.
Decision Date12 May 1930
150 A. 652

CITY OF WILLIAMSPORT
v.
WILLIAMSPORT WATER CO.

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

May 12, 1930.


Appeal from Court of Common Pleas, Lycoming County; Harvey W. Whitehead, President Judge.

Proceedings by the City of Williamsport against the Williamsport Water Company for declaratory judgment. From an order dismissing petition, the City of Williamsport appeals, and, from an order failing to sustain its preliminary objections to declaratory judgment proceedings, the defendant appeals.

Order dismissing petition affirmed.

Argued before MOSCHZISKER, C. J., and FRAZER, WALLING, SIMPSON, KEPHART, SADDLER, and SCHAFFER, JJ.

Caspar Townsend (of Townsend, Elliott & Munson), of Philadelphia, Max L. Mitchell, of Williamsport, George F. B. Appel, of Philadelphia, and Frank P. Cummings, City Sol., of Williamsport, for appellant City of Williamsport.

Frederic L. Ballard (of Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll), and Allen Hunter White, both of Philadelphia, and Edgar Munson, of Williamsport, and Ellis Ames Ballard, of Philadelphia, for appellee.

SCHAFFER, J.

The immediate proceeding before us is one in which the city of Williamsport seeks a declaratory judgment in connection with its endeavor to acquire the works and property of the Williamsport Water Company, under

150 A. 653

the provisions of the Act of April 29, 1874, P. L. 73, which provides (clause 7, § 34 [Pa. St. 1920, § 5926]): "It shall be lawful, at any time after twenty years from the introduction of water or gas, as the case may be, into any place as aforesaid, for the town, borough, city or district in which the said company shall be located, to become the owners of said works, and the property of said company, by paying therefor the net cost of erecting and maintaining the same, with interest thereon at the rate of ten per centum per annum, deducting from said interest all dividends theretofore declared." The court below dismissed the petition for the declaratory judgment on the ground that the litigation between the parties had its inception after the Public Service Company Law went into effect, and that it was incumbent upon the water company to procure a certificate of public convenience from the commission before proceeding further. Both the city and the water company have appealed; the former, from the action of the court in dismissing the declaratory judgment proceedings and in denying the validity of an agreed upon judgment entered in the year 1920 fixing the price of the water company's works and property, and the latter because of the court's failure to sustain its preliminary objections to the declaratory judgment proceedings, and from its conclusion that the approval of the Public Service Commission of the judgment of 1920 could still be given. Both appeals will be disposed of in this opinion.

On June 1, 1907, the city passed a resolution declaring its intention to acquire the plant of the two water companies then serving it, which have since been merged into the Williamsport Water Company, provided "that the electors of the said city shall assent, at a public election, to be held for that purpose to the increase of additional indebtedness of said city * * * to a sum sufficient to effectuate the purchase." In 1908 the city filed bills in equity against the predecessor companies of defendant to get access to their books to compute the price to be paid. The court entered decrees favorable to the city, which were set aside by this court in Williamsport v. Citizens' Water & Gas Co., 232 Pa. 232, 81 A. 316, and Williamsport v. Williamsport Water Co., 232 Pa. 255, 81 A. 324, on the ground that the remedy was not in equity but at law in mandamus. It was directed in each case that the cause should be transferred to the law side of the court. These decisions were handed down July 6, 1911, and for six years the city did nothing. During this interval the Public Service Company Law of July 26, 1913, P. L. 1374 (Pa. St. 1920, § 18057 et seq.) was passed and approved, effective January 1, 1914, which required, by article 3, § 3 (d), Pa. St. 1920, § 18089 and article 5, § 18 (Pa. St. 1920, § 18149), a certificate of public convenience from the commission as a condition precedent to any municipal acquisition of water plants under the act of 1874, and in article 3, § 11 (Pa. St. 1920, § 18103), that "no contract or agreement between any public service company and any municipal corporation shall be valid unless approved by the commission."

In 1916, the water companies voluntarily allowed the city to make an examination of their books, and the city thereafter moved the court to transfer the two equity suits to its law side in compliance with the orders entered on appeal, and the transfer was made accordingly in June, 1917. On November 20, 1917, the city presented petitions for writs of mandamus to compel the conveyance of the works and property of the water companies upon payment of the purchase price thereof, computed in accordance with the provisions of the act of 1874. Writs of alternative mandamus were issued, which the defendants moved to quash on a number of grounds, one of which was that the city had not secured the requisite certificate of public convenience from the commission. The court refused to quash the writs, but did not pass upon this objection to them. Thereafter the two mandamus actions were consolidated conformably to the merger of the two companies, and on June 1, 1920, a compromise agreement of settlement was negotiated between the city and the water company stipulating the terms of an agreed upon judgment to be entered thereon, which judgment was duly entered on June 17, 1920. It recites that the demurrers filed by the city are overruled and that the action is at issue upon the petitions for writs of alternative mandamus and the returns thereto. The judgment fixed the price of the works and property of the water company at $1,766,624, as of December 31, 1919. Of this price, the sum of $1,471,432.61 represented the cost as of December 31, 1919, of erecting and maintaining the works and property, and the sum of $297, 191.39 the interest on such cost computed at...

To continue reading

Request your trial
12 practice notes
  • Washington Terminal Co. v. Boswell, No. 7465.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • November 18, 1941
    ...234 Ky. 211, 27 S.W.2d 960; Ladner v. Siegel, 1928, 294 Pa. 368, 144 A. 274; Williamsport v. Williamsport Water Co., 1930, 300 Pa. 439, 150 A. 652; Trustees of Columbia University v. Kalvin, 1929, 226 App.Div. 775, 235 N.Y.S. 4. This is made clear also by a reading of the cases especially c......
  • In re Cryan's Estate
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • November 24, 1930
    ...Pa. 502, 507, 147 A. 525; Taylor v. Haverford Twp., 299 Pa. 402, 406, 149 A. 639; Wllltamsport v. Williamsport Water Co., 300 Pa. 439, 448, 150 A. 652. In B'Nai B'Rith Orphanage v. Roberts, 284 Pa. 26, 130 A. 298, a will was construed, but the facts giving rise to the application of the Dec......
  • Anderson v. Wyoming Development Company, 2267
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • December 13, 1944
    ...elucidate a judicial decree or judgment. 1 C.J.S. 1036, Lodner v. Siegel, 144 A. 274, City of Williamsport v. Williamsport Water Company, 150 A. 652; National Biscuit Company v. Kellogg Company, 22 F.Supp. 801. POINTS OF COUNSEL FOR THE GREAT WESTERN SUGAR COMPANY, RESPONDENT A demurrer to ......
  • Heller v. Shapiro
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • April 5, 1932
    ...modify or declare rights under an existing decree of a court. Ladner v. Siegel, supra; Williamsport v. Williamsport Water Co., 300 Pa. 439, 150 A. 652. While section 9 of the act recognizes that issues of fact may be litigated in the action, the action more properly lies upon undisputed fac......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
12 cases
  • Washington Terminal Co. v. Boswell, No. 7465.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • November 18, 1941
    ...234 Ky. 211, 27 S.W.2d 960; Ladner v. Siegel, 1928, 294 Pa. 368, 144 A. 274; Williamsport v. Williamsport Water Co., 1930, 300 Pa. 439, 150 A. 652; Trustees of Columbia University v. Kalvin, 1929, 226 App.Div. 775, 235 N.Y.S. 4. This is made clear also by a reading of the cases especially c......
  • In re Cryan's Estate
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • November 24, 1930
    ...Pa. 502, 507, 147 A. 525; Taylor v. Haverford Twp., 299 Pa. 402, 406, 149 A. 639; Wllltamsport v. Williamsport Water Co., 300 Pa. 439, 448, 150 A. 652. In B'Nai B'Rith Orphanage v. Roberts, 284 Pa. 26, 130 A. 298, a will was construed, but the facts giving rise to the application of the Dec......
  • Anderson v. Wyoming Development Company, 2267
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • December 13, 1944
    ...elucidate a judicial decree or judgment. 1 C.J.S. 1036, Lodner v. Siegel, 144 A. 274, City of Williamsport v. Williamsport Water Company, 150 A. 652; National Biscuit Company v. Kellogg Company, 22 F.Supp. 801. POINTS OF COUNSEL FOR THE GREAT WESTERN SUGAR COMPANY, RESPONDENT A demurrer to ......
  • Heller v. Shapiro
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • April 5, 1932
    ...modify or declare rights under an existing decree of a court. Ladner v. Siegel, supra; Williamsport v. Williamsport Water Co., 300 Pa. 439, 150 A. 652. While section 9 of the act recognizes that issues of fact may be litigated in the action, the action more properly lies upon undisputed fac......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT