Hannibal & St. Joseph R. Co. v. Missouri River Packet Co.,
125 U.S. 260 (1888)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hannibal & St. Joseph R. Co. v. Missouri River Packet Co., 125 U.S. 260 (1888)

Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad Company

v. Missouri River Packet Company

No. 183

Argued and Submitted February 6, 1888

Decided March 19, 1888

125 U.S. 260


The act of Congress of July 25, 1866, 14 Stat. 244, § 10 of which authorized a bridge to be constructed across the Missouri River at the City of Kansas, required that the distance of one hundred and sixty feet between the piers of the bridge, which was called for by the act, should be obtained by measuring along a line between said piers drawn perpendicularly to the faces of the piers and the current of the river, and as such a line drawn between the piers of the bridge of the plaintiff in error measures only one hundred and fifty-three feet and a fraction of a foot, instead of the required one hundred and sixty feet, it is not a lawful structure within the meaning of that act.

When there is any doubt as to the proper construction of a statute granting a privilege, that construction should be adopted which is most advantageous to the interests of the government, the grantor.

A decision by the highest court of a state upon the question whether the mere fact that a bridge, constructed under authority derived from the Act of Congress of July 25, 1866, 14 Stat. 244, had not been constructed as required by the statute rendered the owner liable for injuries happening by reason of its existence to a steamboat navigating the river, irrespective of the question whether the accident was the result of the improper construction, presents no federal question for the decision of this Court.

This was an action brought in a state court of Missouri to recover damages for injuries to steamboats of the plaintiff below caused by striking upon the piers of a bridge across the Missouri River constructed by the defendant. Verdict and judgment for plaintiff, which was affirmed by the supreme court of the state. Defendant sued out this writ of error. The case is stated in the opinion of the court.

Page 125 U. S. 261

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