Huntington Water Corp. v. City Of Huntington, Nos. 8033, 8080.

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtHATCHER
Docket NumberNos. 8033, 8080.
PartiesHUNTINGTON WATER CORPORATION. v. CITY OF HUNTINGTON (two cases).
Decision Date20 November 1934

177 S.E. 290

HUNTINGTON WATER CORPORATION.
v.
CITY OF HUNTINGTON (two cases).

Nos. 8033, 8080.

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

Nov. 20, 1934.


Syllabus by the Court.

1. Under Code 1931, 11-8-13, the validity of a municipal contract to purchase water for a period of years is ordinarily tested by the cost of the service for the first year.

2. All general legal principles affecting contracts enter by implication into and form a part of every contract, as fully as if specifically expressed therein.

3. A franchise contract between a municipality and a water company is made subject to the inherent power of the Legislature to supervise and regulate.

4. A change in the original rates of a franchise contract made by the Public Service Commission, acting under the authority of the Legislature, does not impair the obligation of the contract.

5. The constitutional limitation of levies does not impair obligations legally contracted prior to the limitation.

No.8033.

Error to Circuit Court, Cabell County.

Action by the Huntington Water Corporation against the City of Huntington. Judgment for plaintiff, and defendant brings error. In the Supreme Court of Appeals, the Huntington Water Corporation filed original petition for mandamus against the City of Huntington.

Judgment affirmed, and writ of mandamus granted.

Fitzpatrick, Brown & Davis, of Huntington, and Clarence H. Dickey, for Huntington Water Corporation.

Okey P. Keadle, of Huntington, for City of Huntington.

HATCHER, Judge.

Huntington Water Corporation, a public utility, seeks to recover of the city of Huntington certain delinquent rentals for municipal water service. The case was submitted to the court in lieu of a jury and a judgment rendered in favor of the plaintiff for $125,954.07. A writ of error was granted the city.

By mesne assignments the plaintiff is the owner of three waterworks franchises. One was issued by the city in 1886, one by the town of Guyandotte in 1888, and the other by the town of Central City in 1888. The three franchises are couched in similar terms,

[177 S.E. 291]

and both towns are now included within the defendant's present incorporation. So the three franchises may be treated as one. In granting the 1886 franchise, the defendant ordained that the grantee should establish 84 lire hydrants primarily and such additional fire hydrants later as the city should require. The city was to pay $3,000 annually for the 84 hydrants and $40 annually for each additional hydrant. In consideration of the franchise, the grantee was to supply water free of charge to certain city buildings. The franchise was to exist for an initial period of thirty years. But the franchise gave the city certain optional rights to purchase the water system and provided that, if those rights were not exercised within thirty years, the franchise should be extended automatically for a further period of thirty years. The option was not exercised, and the franchise is still operative.

In 1921, the Public Service Commission ordered the plaintiff to discontinue free water service to the city buildings, and prescribed a charge therefor. Since then, the defendant has paid for such service the sum of $20,-044.54, which it would have applied herein as an offset. The growth of the defendant since 1886 has required the installation of many additional fire hydrants; there being now a total of 845 fire hydrants in use. Under the franchise rates, the hydrants would now be costing defendant about $38,000 annually. Instead, in 1923, the commission changed somewhat the franchise "set-up" of the city rates (allowed an additional charge per lineal foot for pipe lines thereafter installed), whereby the water service is now costing the city about $78,402.48 annually. The city met all water service charges against it until May 1, 1932. For the fiscal year of 1932-33, the city failed to pay a balance of $46, S62.48 on water service charges. On September 30, 1933, the city notified the plaintiff that it was without funds to meet the demands of its several utilities, and could not legally incur any indebtedness for utility service. By reason of the constitutional amendment limiting levies, effective January 1, 1933, the city could not levy sufficient taxes within the limitation to meet its current expenditures. So no payments were made on water service charges for 1933-1934, except a few small ones.

Counsel for the defendant presents the following points in his brief:

"1. That plaintiff cannot recover herein because of the provisions of chapter 11, article 8, sections 12 and 13 of the Code of West...

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20 practice notes
  • State Ex Rel. Town Of South Charleston v. Partlow, No. 10145.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 6, 1949
    ...v. Littlepage, 73 W.Va. 156, 80 S.E. 131, 51 L.R.A., N.S, 353; and Huntington Water Corporation v. City of Huntington, 115 W.Va. 531, 177 S.E. 290. All of those cases involved long term contracts of a municipal corporation, relating to light or water to be furnished to the municipality or i......
  • Peak v. State Compensation Commissioner, No. 10775
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • May 22, 1956
    ...vested, not potential, rights, [141 W.Va. 459] are disturbed. See Huntington Water Corporation v. City of Huntington, 115 W.Va. 531, 177 S.E. 290; City of Benwood v. Public Service Commission, 75 W.Va. 127, 83 S.E. 295, L.R.A.1915C, 261. It Page 629 is true that this Court has held, we beli......
  • Meadows v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 25325-25329.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 9, 1999
    ...incorporates existing legal principles. We held, in Syllabus Point 2 of Huntington Water Corp. v. City of Huntington 115 W.Va. 531, 177 S.E. 290 (1934), All general legal principles affecting contracts enter by implication into and form a part of every contract, as fully as if specifically ......
  • State Of West Va. Ex Rel. Town Of South Charleston v. Partlow, (No. 10145)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 6, 1949
    ...73 W. Va. 156, 80 S. E. 131, 51 L. R. A. (N.S.) 353; and Huntington Water Corporation v. The City of Huntington, 115 W. Va. 531, 177 S. E. 290. All of those cases involved long term contracts of a municipal corporation, relating to light or water to be furnished to the municipality or its i......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
20 cases
  • State Ex Rel. Town Of South Charleston v. Partlow, No. 10145.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 6, 1949
    ...v. Littlepage, 73 W.Va. 156, 80 S.E. 131, 51 L.R.A., N.S, 353; and Huntington Water Corporation v. City of Huntington, 115 W.Va. 531, 177 S.E. 290. All of those cases involved long term contracts of a municipal corporation, relating to light or water to be furnished to the municipality or i......
  • Peak v. State Compensation Commissioner, No. 10775
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • May 22, 1956
    ...vested, not potential, rights, [141 W.Va. 459] are disturbed. See Huntington Water Corporation v. City of Huntington, 115 W.Va. 531, 177 S.E. 290; City of Benwood v. Public Service Commission, 75 W.Va. 127, 83 S.E. 295, L.R.A.1915C, 261. It Page 629 is true that this Court has held, we beli......
  • Meadows v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 25325-25329.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 9, 1999
    ...incorporates existing legal principles. We held, in Syllabus Point 2 of Huntington Water Corp. v. City of Huntington 115 W.Va. 531, 177 S.E. 290 (1934), All general legal principles affecting contracts enter by implication into and form a part of every contract, as fully as if specifically ......
  • State Of West Va. Ex Rel. Town Of South Charleston v. Partlow, (No. 10145)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 6, 1949
    ...73 W. Va. 156, 80 S. E. 131, 51 L. R. A. (N.S.) 353; and Huntington Water Corporation v. The City of Huntington, 115 W. Va. 531, 177 S. E. 290. All of those cases involved long term contracts of a municipal corporation, relating to light or water to be furnished to the municipality or its i......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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