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MARCHANT v. PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD COMPANY.

decided: May 14, 1894.

MARCHANT
v.
PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD COMPANY.



ERROR TO THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS, NO. 3, FOR THE COUNTY OF PHILADELPHIA, STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA.

Author: Shiras

[ 153 U.S. Page 383]

 MR. JUSTICE SHIRAS, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.

The Pennsylvania Railroad Company, a corporation under the laws of the State of Pennsylvania, and invested with the privilege of taking private property for its corporate use, erected in May, 1881, and has since maintained a viaduct or elevated roadway and railroad thereon, along the south side of Filbert Street in the city of Philadelphia. On the opposite or north side of Filbert Street the plaintiff below was the owner of a lot or parcel of land, whereon was erected a large four-story building, at that time occupied as a dwelling and business house. The elevated railroad did not occupy any portion of the plaintiff's land, nor did it trench upon Filbert Street where it extends in front of the plaintiff's property, which is situated on Filbert between Seventeenth and Eighteenth streets, but where the elevated road, in its course westward, reaches Twentieth Street, it trends to the north and is supported over the cartway of Filbert Street by iron pillars having their foundations in that street inside the curb line, and thus extends westwardly to the Schuylkill River. Opposite the plaintiff's lot the railroad structure occupies land owned by the company.

The plaintiff, by his action in the Court of Common Pleas, sought to recover for injuries caused to his property by the smoke, dust, noise, and vibration arising from the use of the

[ 153 U.S. Page 384]

     engines and cars, the necessary consequence and incidents of the operations of a steam railway.

The trial court refused the defendant's prayer that "the jury should be instructed that the defendant, under its charter and supplements in evidence, had full lawful authority to create and operate the Filbert Street extension or branch described in the declaration without incurring any liability by reason thereof for consequential damages to the property of the plaintiff, the uncontradicted evidence being that none of the said property was taken by the defendant, but that the entire width of Filbert Street intervenes between the railroad of the defendant and the nearest point thereto of the property of the plaintiff," and instructed the jury that the only question for them to determine was the amount of depreciation in value of the plaintiff's property caused by the operation of the railroad, and that in estimating the damages they should consider the value of the property before and its value after the injury was inflicted, and allow the difference. The plaintiff recovered a verdict and judgment. This judgment was reversed by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, because of the action of the trial court in refusing to grant the defendant's prayer for instruction, and, in effect, because the plaintiff had no cause of action. By the specifications of error contained in this record we are asked to reverse the judgment of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania because the plaintiff in error was thereby deprived of her property without compensation; because she was thereby deprived of the equal protection of the laws; and because she was thereby deprived of her property without due process of law.

In reaching the conclusion that the plaintiff, under the admitted facts in the case, had no legal cause of action, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania was called upon to construe the laws and constitution of the State. The plaintiff pointed to the 10th section of article 1 of the constitution, which provided that "private property shall not be taken or applied to public use, without authority of law, and without just compensation being first made or secured;" and to the 8th section of article 16, which contains the following terms: "Municipal

[ 153 U.S. Page 385]

     and other corporations and individuals invested with the privilege of taking private property for public use shall make just compensation for property taken, injured, or destroyed by the construction or enlargement of their works, highways, or improvements, which compensation shall be paid or secured before such taking, injury, or destruction."

The first proposition asserted by the plaintiff, that her private property has been taken from her without just compensation having been first made or secured, involves certain questions of fact. Was the plaintiff the owner of private property, and was such property taken, injured, or destroyed by a corporation invested with the privilege of taking private property for public use? The title of the plaintiff to the property affected was not disputed, nor that the railroad company was a corporation invested with the privilege of taking private property for public use. But it was adjudged by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania that the acts of the defendant which were complained of did not, under the laws and constitution of that State, constitute a taking, an injury, or a destruction of the plaintiff's property.

We are not authorized to inquire into the grounds and reasons upon which the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania proceeded in its construction of the statutes and constitution of that State, and if this record presented no other question except errors alleged to have been committed by that court in its construction of its domestic laws, we should be obliged to hold, as has been often held in like cases, that we have no jurisdiction to review the judgment of the state court, and we should have to dismiss this writ of error for that reason.

But we are urged to sustain and exercise our jurisdiction in this case because it is said that the plaintiff's property was taken "without due process of law," and because the plaintiff was denied "the equal protection of the laws," and these propositions are said to present Federal questions arising under the Fourteenth ...


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