Wheeler v. New York, N.H. & H. R. Co.,
178 U.S. 321 (1900)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Wheeler v. New York, N.H. & H. R. Co., 178 U.S. 321 (1900)

Wheeler v. New York, New Haven

and Hartford Railroad Company

No. 634

Submitted May 14, 1900

Decided May 28, 1900

178 U.S. 321


Under a statute of Connecticut, a contract was entered into between the City of Bridgeport and a railroad company providing that the city should pay one-sixth of the expense of abolishing grade crossings, and also of increasing the tracks of the company from two to four. Defendants, whose lands were sought to be condemned for this purpose, objected upon the ground that the agreement of the city to pay one-sixth of the expense of increasing the number of tracks was a practical donation by the city to the railroad company in violation of the state constitution, and was also a taking of their property without due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment to the federal Constitution. Held that, the supreme court of the state having decided that the right to condemn the land did not depend upon the obligation of the city to pay a part of the expenses, and that the defendants could not prevent a condemnation by showing that the company might not afterwards obtain a reimbursement from the city, and also that the defendants, not alleging that they were taxpayers or specially interested, were not in any position to question the validity of the proceedings, it followed that their property was not taken without due process of law.

This was a motion to dismiss the writ of error, and in default thereof to affirm the judgment of the Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut.

The case originated in an application by the railroad company to the judge of the superior court to appoint appraisers to estimate the damages that might arise to the plaintiffs in error from the taking of certain real estate in the City of Bridgeport for the purpose of carrying out an agreement between the railroad company and the City of Bridgeport for the abolition of grade crossings. This agreement, which was entered into under the provisions of an act of the general assembly "providing for the abolition of grade crossings in Bridgeport," provided the manner, plans, method, and time in

Page 178 U. S. 322

which the grade crossings should be abolished, and the proportion of the cost thereof to be borne by the City of Bridgeport and the railroad company, the proportion of such cost to be paid by the city being one-sixth and that, by the railroad company five sixths, provided the total cost to be paid by the city should not exceed the sum of four hundred thousand dollars.

A demurrer to the application of the railroad company having been overruled, and a special defense in the answer having been stricken out as irrelevant and impertinent, an order was made appointing the appraisers. An appeal was taken to the Supreme Court of Errors, which affirmed the judgment of the judge of the superior court, and defendant sued out this writ of error, which defendant in error moves to dismiss for want of jurisdiction or to affirm upon the ground that the question upon which the jurisdiction depends is frivolous.

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