Washer v. Bullitt County
110 U.S. 558 (1884)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Washer v. Bullitt County, 110 U.S. 558 (1884)

Washer v. Bullitt County

Argued February 1, 1884

Decided March 3, 1884

110 U.S. 558

Syllabus

When an amended complaint demands a sum different from that demanded in the original, the amended and not the original complaint is to be looked to in determining the question of jurisdiction.

At common law, a county may be required or have authority to maintain a bridge or causeway across its boundary line and extending into the territory of an adjoining county.

A statute of Kentucky which enacts that

"County courts have jurisdiction to . . . erect and keep in repair necessary . . . bridges and other structures and superintend the same . . . provide for the good condition of the public highways of the county, and to execute all of its orders consistent with law and within its jurisdiction"

confers upon a county court authority to erect a bridge across a boundary stream and construct approaches to it in the adjoining county.

The power conferred upon county courts of adjoining counties by statute, to construct bridges across boundary streams at joint expense is not exclusive, and does not take away the common law right in each of the counties to erect such bridges at its sole cost.

Page 110 U. S. 559

This was an action at law brought by the plaintiffs in error against the county of Bullitt, in the State of Kentucky, on a contract dated July 8, 1878, made between the plaintiff Washer and the defendant county, for the construction of a bridge by Washer over Pond Creek, the boundary between Bullitt and Jefferson Counties.

The contract, which is attached as an exhibit to the petition, was executed by Washer and J. W. Ridgway, Commissioner of Bullitt County. It provided that Washer should erect an arched stone bridge with earthen embankments across Pond Creek, at the Branner foundation site, according to certain specifications, for specified prices per cubic yard of masonry and embankment. Bullitt County guaranteed payment for the whole work.

The petition alleged that on August 29, 1878, Washer transferred by his endorsement in writing the contract made by him with the County of Bullitt, and all moneys due to him thereon, to his co-plaintiffs, Danenhauer and Baecker. It averred that on December 10, 1878, there was due to the plaintiffs from Bullitt County on the contract the sum of $5,325.14, which it refused to pay, or any part thereof, "except the sum of $1,800, leaving a balance due thereon of $3,525.14," from which latter amount was to be deducted the sum of $340.75, which the plaintiffs had agreed might be paid by the defendant directly to the Smith Bridge Company for materials furnished by it for the bridge, leaving a balance due the plaintiffs of $3,184.39.

The defendant filed a general demurrer to the petition, which the court sustained, with leave to the plaintiffs to amend. They afterwards filed an amended petition, in which it was averred that before the contract mentioned in the petition was made the owners and occupants in possession of the lands approaching the bridge on both sides of Pond Creek appeared in open county court, and relinquished of record the right of way to and across the bridge, and thereafter, and before the contract was made, the County Court of Bullitt County, being composed of the presiding judge and a majority of the justices thereof, appointed commissioners and notified the Jefferson

Page 110 U. S. 560

County Court thereof, and requested it to appoint like commissioners to contract for the bridge, which the Jefferson County Court did, and the commissioners so appointed met at the place proposed for erecting the bridge, and at the place mentioned in the contract, but could not and did not agree upon a plan for erecting the bridge, nor contract for the erection thereof; that thereupon the County Court of Bullitt County, composed of the county judge and a majority of the justices of the county, decided that it was necessary to erect the bridge, and having exhausted all means provided by statute for securing the aid of Jefferson County in building the same, decided to erect the bridge; and that, on July 16, 1877, said county court, composed as aforesaid, authorized J. W. Ridgway to report plans and specifications for the erection of the bridge, and W. Carpenter, the county judge, to receive and accept bids for the same; and that, in pursuance of this authority, the county judge accepted the bid of Washer, and that Ridgway, being thereunto authorized by an order of the county court, entered into the contract with Washer appended to the petition, and that the making of the contract was subsequently ratified by orders made and entered of record by the County Court of Bullitt County, composed of the county judge and a majority of the justices of the county, directing the levy of taxes to pay for the work done under the contract, and the application of the money so raised to that purpose.

The amended petition also averred that

"the bridge was necessary for the public use of the people and travel of Bullitt County, and that said proceedings and orders and the contract so entered into by defendant were valid and binding upon it."

By the amended petition the allegations of the original petition in respect to the payment of $1,800 for the work done under the contract, and in respect to the sum of $340.75 due the Smith Bridge Company for materials for the bridge, and the averment that there was a balance due upon work performed by the plaintiff Washer of $3,184.39, were withdrawn; and the amended petition averred that the defendant had failed to perform its contract or to pay plaintiffs for work done thereunder,

Page 110 U. S. 561

to their damage in the sum of $5,325.14, for which amount they demanded judgment.

To this amended petition the defendant demurred on the ground that it did not state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action.

The circuit court sustained the demurrer, and the plaintiffs electing to stand by their amended petition the court rendered judgment "that the plaintiffs take nothing by their petition, and that the defendant go hence without day and recover of the plaintiffs its costs," &c.

The plaintiffs sued out their writ of error.

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