Town of Wickenburg v. Sabin

Decision Date29 November 1948
Docket Number5036
Citation200 P.2d 342,68 Ariz. 75
CourtArizona Supreme Court

Appeal from Superior Court, Maricopa County; Edwin Beauchamp, Judge.

Petition by Chester Sabin for a writ of mandamus against the Town of Wickenburg, a municipal corporation, to furnish petitioner with electric current and water. From a judgment granting the writ, defendant appeals.


Norman Wykoff, of Wickenburg, and Snell, Wilmer, Walsh & Melczer, of Phoenix, for appellant.

Edward B. Ashurst, of Wickenburg, for appellee.

Udall Justice. Stanford, C.J., and LaPrade, J., concurring.


Udall Justice.

This appeal is from a judgment of the superior court of Maricopa County, requiring appellant, the Town of Wickenburg, a municipal corporation, under the compulsion of a peremptory writ of mandamus to forthwith furnish to appellee, Chester Sabin, electric current and water for domestic use in his home.

The facts will be stated in the light most favorable to a sustaining of the judgment. Appellant is the owner of both the municipal water and electric distribution systems, and it has an exclusive monopoly in these fields within the boundaries of the town. Appellee Sabin is an inhabitant of the town and is the owner of lot 3 in block 1 of Reed's Addition to the Wickenburg Townsite upon which he resides with his wife and two small children. This subdivision had become a part of the town some five and a half months prior to the happening of the events in question. On April 5, 1947 the appellee made application to Bernard Hill, the town clerk, for water and electric service to the tent house in which Sabin lived, tendering the usual and customary fee of $ 5.00 for each of such services. Irrespective of the fact that both the water distributing system and the electric lines had been previously extended by appellant into the immediate area adjacent to appellee's home in Reed's Addition, the appellee was advised by the town clerk that his application for utility services would be denied unless he put up a $ 50.00 deposit to guarantee the building of a permanent residence on the lot. As the appellee refused to comply with this condition, the appellant denied him both water and electric service. Immediately thereafter a mandamus action was brought by appellee to compel the town to extend to him this utility service. An alternative writ was issued and after a hearing before the court and consideration by it of the briefs submitted by the parties, it was ordered that a peremptory writ of mandamus issue ordering and directing the town to furnish the services upon payment of the usual and customary fees. This appeal by the town followed. Within ten days, however, from the date of the judgment the town complied with the order of the court, and the appellee has since been receiving continuous service. Further pertinent facts will be stated as we proceed to a consideration of specific assignments.

At the outset it seems obvious from a study of the briefs filed by the respective parties that they have very divergent theories as to the ultimate proven facts and the legal principles controlling in the case. The appellee (plaintiff) presented his whole case upon the theory of an arbitrary and unjust discrimination against him by the appellant. It was conceded that appellant was supplying both water and electric service to a man by the name of Chapman who was living in a similar tent house on an adjacent lot, and that no deposit other than the customary fees had been paid by him. However the appellant stoutly maintained that the action taken which resulted in the installation of service to Chapman had been without the approval of the town council. The town admittedly had an abundant supply of water and sufficient electric power to supply the needs of all within its limits. Furthermore, the evidence offered by the appellee, if believed, established that to connect his home with the water line serving the Chapman place would require approximately two hours of labor and not to exceed 100 feet of three-quarter inch pipe. Other testimony would also establish that it would only require some four hours of labor, one pole, and 600 feet of wire to connect appellee's home with the existing power line serving his neighbor Chapman. The town clerk admitted from the witness stand that there had been no official ordinance or resolution enacted or passed requiring the collection of a $ 50.00 deposit or the giving of a bond to insure the construction of permanent buildings, nor had any such deposit or bond been exacted of any other user of water or electric current in the town of Wickenburg. Clerk Hill further testified:

"The Court: The reason for the refusal of water and electric service to this man Sabin was due to the fact that he had a tent house rather than what you considered to be a permanent dwelling, is that right?

"Answer: Yes."

The law on discrimination as applied to public service corporations generally is well settled. McQuillin Municipal Corporations, 2d Ed., Vol. 4, section 1829, states:

"The rule forbidding unjust discrimination has been variously expressed: The charges must be equal to all for the same service under like circumstances. A public service corporation is impressed with the obligation of furnishing its service to each patron at the same price it makes to every other patron for the same or substantially the same or similar service. It 'must be equal in its dealings with all.' It 'must treat the members of the general public alike.' All patrons of the same class are entitled to the same service on equal terms. 'The law will not and cannot tolerate discrimination in the charges of these quasi-public corporations. There must be equality of rights to all and special priviliges to none.' 'A person having a public duty to discharge is undoubtedly bound to exercise such office for the equal benefit of all.' 'All should be treated alike; equality of rights requires equality of service.' 'The duty owed to all alike involves obligations to treat all alike.' 'The common law upon the subject is founded on public policy which requires one engaged in a public calling to charge a reasonable and uniform price to all persons for the same service rendered under the same circumstances.'"

For other text statements of the same tenor, see 29 C.J.S., Electricity, § 27; 43 Am.Jur., Public Utilities and Services, sec. 42; Water Rights in the Western States (Wiel), 3d Ed., Vol. 2, sec. 1283. For only two of the many cases on discrimination, see Texas Power & Light Co. v. Kousal, Tex.Civ.App.1943, 170 S.W.2d 278; Southeastern Land Co. v. Louisville Gas & Electric Co., 262 Ky. 215, 90 S.W.2d 1.

As regards discrimination in the public utility field, the appellant, a municipal corporation, stands in the same position as a private corporation.

"* * * And a municipality undertaking to supply water to its inhabitants stands in no different relation as to the right to discriminate from that of private corporations. * * * 27 R.C.L., Waterworks, sec. 66. See also 29 C.J.S., Electricity, § 27; McQuillin Municipal Corporations, 2d Ed., Vol. 4, sec. 1837; American Aniline Products, Inc., v. City of Lock Haven, 288 Pa. 420, 135 A. 726, 50 A.L.R. 121, Annotation page 126.

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22 cases
  • Crownhill Homes, Inc. v. City of San Antonio
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Civil Appeals of Texas
    • August 8, 1968
    ...fraud or caprice or in an effort to discriminate against any particular applicant.' (emphasis supplied). See also Town of Wickenburg v. Sabin, 68 Ariz. 75, 200 P.2d 342 (1948); Johnson v. Reasor, 392 S.W.2d 54 (Ky.1965); Wolff v. Louisville Water Co., Inc., 302 S.W.2d 104 (Ky.1957). The que......
  • Sun City Home Owners Ass'n v. Ariz. Corp. Comm'n
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Arizona
    • January 23, 2020 this area is quite sparse, with almost no cases construing the two anti-discrimination provisions. In Town of Wickenburg v. Sabin , 68 Ariz. 75, 77, 200 P.2d 342 (1948), however, our supreme court stated that "the law on discrimination as applied to public service corporations generally ......
  • Phelps Dodge Corp. v. ARIZONA ELEC. POWER CO-OP., INC., 1 CA-CV 01-0068.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Arizona
    • January 27, 2004
    ...from charging preferential rates or establishing any "unreasonable difference as to rates." See also Town of Wickenburg v. Sabin, 68 Ariz. 75, 77-78, 200 P.2d 342, 343-44 (1948) (holding public service corporation obligated to furnish service to each patron at same price charged to other pa......
  • Situated v. City Of Flagstaff
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Arizona
    • September 2, 2010
    ...Right Under Ariz. Const. Art. 15, § 12 Applies Against Municipal Corporations. ¶ 21 Relying principally on Town of Wickenburg v. Sabin, 68 Ariz. 75, 200 P.2d 342 (1948), Plaintiffs argue that the Arizona Supreme Court has long recognized an implicit constitutional right under Art. 15, § 12 ......
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