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MCCOY v. UNION ELEVATED R. CO. , 247 U.S. 354 (1918)

U.S. Supreme Court

MCCOY v. UNION ELEVATED R. CO. , 247 U.S. 354 (1918)

247 U.S. 354

McCOY et al.
No. 190.

Argued March 14 and 15, 1918.
Decided June 3, 1918.

Messrs. Harry S. Mecartney and John S. Miller, both of Chicago, Ill., for plaintiffs in error. [247 U.S. 354, 355]   Messrs. Francis W. Walker, Roger L. Foote, and Addison L. Gardner, all of Chicago, Ill., for defendants in error.

Mr. Justice McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.

William A. McCoy, testator of plaintiffs in error, owned a hotel situated at the northwest corner of Clark and Van Buren streets, Chicago. During 1897 defendants constructed along the latter street and in front of the building an elevated passenger railroad of the ordinary type and have continued to maintain and operate it. Charging that construction, maintenance, and operation of the railroad had caused and would continue to cause injury to the property by noise, smoke, dirt, shutting off air and light, disturbing privacy, and impairing the freedom of ingress and egress, and that its market value had been greatly reduced, McCoy brought a common-law action (September, 1902) in a state court to recover the entire damage.

The declaration does not allege plaintiff's ownership of the fee in the street, but asserts his interest in the lot and right to the 'easements and privileges which legally appertain and rightfully belong to property abutting public streets' in Chicago, including the right of light, air, access, privacy, view, etc. Trial to a jury upon plea of not guilty during February, 1914, resulted in verdict for defendants, and judgment thereon was affirmed by the Supreme Court, a writ of error having been sued out by McCoy's executors. 271 Ill. 490, 111 N. E. 517. That court's statement of facts follows:

During the trial, over plaintiff's objections, questions concerning evidence were determined in accordance with [247 U.S. 354, 358]   repeated rulings by the Illinois Supreme Court that the effect of construction, maintenance, and operation of an elevated road upon market value was the point for determination, and that increase in such value caused by the improvement itself should be considered and treated as a special benefit, although enjoyed by other neighborhood property.

Among others, plaintiff requested the following instructions:

The words 'maintenance and operation' were inserted in the first of these requests and as thus amended it was given; the others were refused.

The following instructions were also given:

The Supreme Court said:

In their brief here counsel for plaintiffs in error declare:

And they now maintain that the judgment below is erroneous because it : (1) Impairs the contract which their testator made when he purchased the property contrary to section 10, art. 1, Federal Constitution; (2) denies to them [247 U.S. 354, 363]   the equal protection of the law; and (3) deprives them of property without due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The first claim is clearly untenable; the contract clause prohibits legislative, not judicial, action. Ross v. Oregon, 227 U.S. 150, 161 , 164 S., 33 Sup. Ct. 220, Ann. Cas. 1914C, 224; Moore-Mansfield Co. v. Electrical Co., 234 U.S. 619, 623 , 624 S., 34 Sup. Ct. 941; Frank v. Mangum, 237 U.S. 309, 344 , 35 S. Sup. Ct. 582. Nothing in the record affords support for the second claim. The third demands consideration.

We may examine proceedings in state courts for appropriation of private property to public purposes so far as to inquire whether a rule of law was adopted in absolute disregard of the owner's right to just compensation. If the necessary result was to deprive him of property without such compensation, then due process of law was denied him, cont ary to Fourteenth Amendment. Chicago, Burlington, etc., R. R. v. Chicago, 166 U.S. 226, 246 , 17 S. Sup. Ct. 581; Backus v. Fort Street Union Depot Co., 169 U.S. 557, 565 , 18 S. Sup. Ct. 445; Fayerweather v. Ritch, 195 U.S. 276, 298 , 25 S. Sup. Ct. 58. Our concern is not to ascertain whether the rule adopted by the state is the one best supported by reason or authority nor with mere errors in course of trial, but with denial of a fundamental right. Appleby v. Buffalo, 221 U.S. 524, 532 , 31 S. Sup. Ct. 699. And see McGovern v. New York, 229 U.S. 363, 371 , 33 S. Sup. Ct. 876, 46 L. R. A. (N. S.) 391. And here it must be noted that the claim is for damages to property not actually taken from the owner's dominion.

The Illinois Constitution provides:

In Peoria, Bloomington & Champaign Traction Co. v. Vance et al., 225 Ill. 270, 272, 80 N. E. 134, 135 (9 L. R. A. [N. S.] 781) where the owner sought damages to the balance of his farm resulting from taking a right of way for an electric road, the court pointed out the applicable doctrine long established in the state. It said:

This doctrine was again expressly affirmed in Brand v. Union Elevated Railroad, 258 Ill. 133, 101 N. E. 247, Ann. Cas. 1914B, 473, L. R. A. 1918A, 878, a proceeding like the present one to recover damages caused by constructing, maintaining, and operating an elevated railroad along the street. The trial court below accepted and applied the approved rule, and we are now asked to declare that it absolutely disregards the owner's fundamental right to just compensation; that it necessarily deprives him of such compensation.

How far benefits must be considered in determining damages to property when claimed on account of a public improvement is a vexed question which has given occasion [247 U.S. 354, 365]   for numberless decisions in different states, as well as much legislation. The matter is elaborately treated and the cases collected in Lewis on Eminent Domain and Nichols on Eminent Domain. In the former (section 687, 3d Ed.) it is said:

The latter work, at section 256 (2d Ed.) says:

The fundamental right guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment is that the owner shall not be deprived of the market value of his property under a rule of law which makes it impossible for him to obtain just compensation. [247 U.S. 354, 366]   There is no guaranty that he shall derive a positive pecuniary advantage from a public work whenever a neighbor does. It is almost universally held that in arriving at the amount of damage to property not taken allowance should be made for peculiar and individual benefits conferred upon it; compensation to the owner in that form is permissible. And we are unable to say that he suffers deprivation of any fundamental right when a state goes one step further and permits consideration of actual benefits- enhancement in market value-flowing directly from a public work, although all in the neighborhood receive like advantages. In such case the owner really loses nothing which he had before; and it may be said with reason, there has been no real injury.

This subject was much discussed in Bauman v. Ross, 167 U.S. 548, 574 , 584 S., 17 Sup. Ct. 966, 976 (42 L. Ed. 270). Through Mr. Justice Gray we there said:

See Martin v. District of Columbia, 205 U.S. 135 , 27 Sup. Ct. 440.

The judgment below is


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