Sandford v. Railroad Co.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Writing for the CourtLewis
Citation24 Pa. 378
PartiesSandford versus Railroad Company.
Decision Date01 May 1855

Campbell, for complainant.

Cadwalader and Read, for respondents.

The opinion of the Court was delivered by LEWIS, C. J.

It is provided by the Act of 16th June, 1836, that the Supreme Court and the several Courts of Common Pleas shall have the jurisdiction and powers of a Court of Chancery so far as relates to the supervision and control of all corporations other than those of a municipal character. The equity powers of our Courts in respect to individuals, are circumscribed within a limited sphere: Gilden v. Merwin, 6 Wharton 522. But over corporations, their equity jurisdiction is general and unlimited. In the exercise of it, they possess all the power and jurisdiction of a Court of Chancery by bill, injunction, or otherwise, as the equity of the case may require: Commonwealth v. Bank of Pennsylvania, 3 W. & Ser. 193. Railroad corporations must necessarily possess very extensive powers to enable them to carry into effect works of great magnitude, and it would be most prejudicial to the interest of all persons with whose property they interfere, if there were not a jurisdiction continually open and ready to exercise its power for the purpose of keeping them within that limit which the legislature has thought proper to prescribe for the exercise of their powers. If they go beyond the power which the legislature has given them, and in a mistaken exercise of those powers, interfere with the property of individuals, the Court is bound to interfere: Agar v. The Regent's Canal Company, Cooper's Rep. 77; Dun River Navigation Company v. North Midland Railway Company, 1 English Railway Cases 135. Although a railroad company is a private corporation, in one sense of the term, it is one in which the public have a very great interest; and the paramount object of the legislature in creating such a corporation, is the interest of the public. It is upon the ground that such companies are incorporated for public use, that the power given to them to take private property for the construction of their roads against the will of the owners, has been sustained. The legislature possesses no constitutional power to authorize the seizure of private property for private purposes, even on giving just compensation. The power of the legislature to authorize municipal officers to tax the people of cities, boroughs, and counties for the payment of subscriptions to railroad corporations, has been sustained on the ground that "a railroad is a public highway, for the public benefit:" Sharpless v. Philadelphia, 9 Harris 169. The nature of this peculiar and improved class of highways makes it indispensable to the public safety that the transportation on it should be placed under the strict regulation of one controlling head. This necessity has led to the usual grant of power to provide cars, locomotives, and to embark in the business of transportation of freight and passengers. When this power is assumed, the company becomes a common carrier, and thus exercises a sort of public office, and has public duties to perform. It is bound to receive and carry all the goods offered for transportation, and is liable to an action in case of refusal without sufficient cause: New Jersey Steam Navigation Company v. Merchants' Bank, 6 Howard's U. S. Rep. 382. Even lateral railroads, established by law for the purpose of enabling the proprietors to convey their minerals to the public thoroughfares, may be used by the public generally on payment of the established rates of toll: Act of 5th May, 1832. It is true, that a private railroad may be constructed on the land of the proprietors. In such a case, the public have no more interest in it nor control over it than they have in any other improvements which men make on their own lands. But wherever a charter is granted for the purpose of constructing a railroad, and the corporation is clothed with...

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31 cases
  • Cumberland Valley Railroad Co. v. Gettysburg & Harrisburg Railway Co., 79
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • October 5, 1896
    ...and therefore invalid as against public policy: Munhall v. Pa. R.R., 92 Pa. 150; Hoover v. Pa. R.R., 156 Pa. 220; Sandford v. R.R., 24 Pa. 378; Keeler v. Taylor, 53 Pa. 467; Cumberland Valley R.R. Co.'s App., 62 Pa. 218; Morris Run Coal Co. v. Coal Co., 68 Pa. 173; O.C. & A.V.R.R. v. Pa. Tr......
  • Codd v. McGoldrick Lumber Co., 5154
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • July 6, 1929
    ...Concord Railroad Corp., 29 N.H. 9, 61 Am. Dec. 631; Coe v. New Jersey etc. R. R. Co., 28 N.J. Eq. 100; Sanford v. Catawissa etc. R. R. Co., 24 Pa. 378, 380, 64 Am. Dec. 667; Clarke v. Rochester, 24 Barb. (N. Y.) 446, 484.) GIVENS, J. Wm. E. Lee, J., and Baker and Adair, D. JJ., concur. OPIN......
  • Central Trust Co. of Illinois v. Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway Co.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • April 9, 1912
    ...put all its patrons upon an absolute equality. Scofield v. Railway, 43 Ohio St. 571 (3 N.E. 907, 54 Am. St. Rep. 846); Sandford v. Railway, 24 Pa. 378 (64 Am. Dec. 667); Messenger v. Pennsylvania Railroad, 36 N.J.L. 407 (13 Am. Rep. 457); McDuffee v. Portland, etc., R., 52 N.H. 430 (13 Am. ......
  • McDougal v. Huntingdon & Broad Top Mountain Railroad & Coal Co., 20
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • June 30, 1928 bill, injunction or otherwise, as the equity of the case may require." This view has been repeatedly affirmed (Sanford v. Ry. Co., 24 Pa. 378; Big Mountain Improvement Company's App., 54 Pa. 361; Sarver's App., 81* Pa. 183; Tunis v. Passenger Ry. Co., 149 Pa. 70; Baptist Congregation v. ......
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