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Seely v. State of Ohio.
uncompleted, the work abandoned, and the speculation failed At the session of the legislature in 1833, '34, Seely petitioned for relief, and $5,000 were granted to, and accepted by him from the stato.
In March, 1839, Seely being a member of the general assembly, the special act authorizing him to file a petition against the state was passed. 504) *Under this act, a petition was filed, setting forth tho transactions between Seely and the board of canal commissioners, alleging that he had been induced, by representations of the board or some members thereof, to sell his land to the state, and to un. dertake the construction of the race or canal, in which he bad actually expended nine or ten thousand dollars; that he had also, in consequence of said representations, made large purchases of real estate, with a view to sale for profit, and from which, it the work had been completed, and the water power sold out by the state, as contemplated, he would have realized many thousand dollars profit.
That, in consequence of the injunction and unnecessary delay, be bad been involved in pecuniary embarrassments, and bad suffered great losses, and the state having abandoned the original design of selling out the water, as contemplated, he had been de. prived of all his anticipated profits, etc., etc. Compensation was claimed for the work and expenditures on the race, for the value of the land occupied by the race, wbich was now abandoned, and for the loss of anticipated speculations on lands and town lots. The cause had been referred to a master, and much testimony taken on the part of Seely, in respect to the value of the work, and of the land occupied by the race, and of the probable speculations, which, on certain contingencies, Seely might bave realized.
And, from the master's report, two estimates were presented. The first claiming to recover for
“The loss only sustained by the increased value of the lots, not being realized by Seely : “ The loss of profits on 60 lots, on plat 4, bought of
Brabham, and sold by Scoly, on July 23, 1829,
- $ 8,104 66 “To damages by loss of increased value on 188 lots, 29,727 50 «Loss of increased value of one-third of 321, on plats 3, 5, and 6,
Seely v. State of Ohio.
*The second, claiming for “loss sustained by the complain- [505 ant by costs of excavating lands for right of way, depreciation of value of lots, abating the $5,000 paid by the state, with interest; also, the actual sale money of the Brabham lots, abating tho depreciation of $50 on each lot subdivided, sixty in number. “ To balance of cost of excavation, with interest, after
deducting the $5,000 appropriated, with interost, $8,308 34 “To the amount of sales of lots got of Brabham, 60 in
number, with interest from the day Seely sold,
8,104 66 “ To value of land occupied by highway and canal, 8 75.100 acres, at $200 per acre, with interest,
3,062 50 “To loss occasioned by the depreciation of all the lots, 17,750 00
“Deduct depreciation on 60 of Brabham's lots, $50
“Amount of decree under this calculation,
An answer was put in, on the part of the state, in which it was insisted that no other contract was made by the state or its agents, with Scely, than for the purchase of the two and a half acres of land, for which it was admitted he was paid at the time. That the digging of the race, and the purchase of lands, and laying out town lots, was his own act, in view of anticipated profits, for the failure of which the state was in no way accountable. That even supposing such contract had been made, the completion of the race by Seely, was a condition precedent, which was never complied with. That had such contract existed, and wore thero no default by bim, he had received from the state $5,000, in full satisfaction and discharge of all claims. And, finally, that having mado an assignment to the commissioner of insolvents, *after the [506 alleged breach on the part of the state, whatever interest he had passed to the commissioner for the benefit of his creditors, so that in no possible view could Seely have any right to recover.
P. P. Lowe, ODLIN & SCHENCK, and Thomas Corwin, for Seoly. J. CRANE, D. PECK, and E. M. STANTON, for the state.
BIRCHARD, J. This proceeding is had under a private act of the general assembly, which authorizes complainant to sue for any damages sustained by reason of the non-performance of any con
Seely v. State of Ohio.
tract entered into with him by the duly authorized agent of the state, and requires the court "to decide the controversy upon the principles of justice and good faith."
The first difficulty which we meet in the investigation of this case, arises upon a construction of the special act conferring jurisdiction. Are we required to be governed by the known rules of law and equity as applied between man and man, or by the principles of a more enlarged rule of moral right, untrammeled by technical rules?
This is made a question. If the object was to leave us to deter. mine the merits agreeably to the well-recognized rules of chancery and law, it may be presumed that no specific directions would have been found in the act, or, at least, that pards would have been used of a definite and certain legal import. Instead of which we are directed to observe no other guide than justice and good faith. Cases daily arise between individuals, in which strict morality imposes higher obligations upon a party than could be enforced in chancery. In some of them the obligation of good faith, as the words are usually understood by mankind, would require performance. As if one were to make a naked agreement to aid another, which would lead to a great expenditure of money in expectation of that aid, and after the expense incurred, the promise should be violated. This would give no right of action in 507] any court, *yet no moralist would pretend that good faith had not been broken.
Whatever may have been the motive of the general assembly in conferring this jurisdiction upon us whether it was done for the sole purpose of bringing into exercise the facilities provided for courts in collecting facts, or for any other purpose—it seems to us that we are made arbiters by the act, between the state and a fellow.citizen, by a jurisdiction specially conferred, to be exercised sui generis, and that it is our duty to be governed by those liberal principles which should be the guide of a committee of either house of the general assembly. Under these views of the power conferred upon us and of our duty, we feel untrammeled by the technicalities of the law and at liberty to adjust this controversy upon as liberal principles as could the general assembly, had the duty not been delegated to us. Guided by these rules, the first inquiry is, did any of the duly authorized agents of the state enter into a contract with complainant, which has not been kept and
Seely v. State of Ohio.
performed in good faith, whereby he has sustained damago? There was a contract for the sale of two acres of land. The land was conveyed pursuant to it. The object of the complainant in vending this property was to secure the flow of the surplus water of the canal through complainant's adjoining land; and it was understood, between him and the agent of the state, that-he should construct a tail-race at his own expenso, looking to the enbanced value of the lands, to be caused by the flow of water, for his remuneration. The essence of the agreement, and the inducement beld out by the state, although not embraced in the deed, was that the surplus water, to the amount of two thousand cubic feet por minute, should be turned into this channel; and, aside from technical rules, we ought to treat this engagement as a part of the contract. Seely bad a right to expect the surplus water would be turned in that direction. It was, in part, the consideration which induced bim to make the sale, and the sole consideration for expending money in purchasing and dedicating the ground occupied by the basin and race, and in excavating the same.
*For three years the state was enjoined from complying .[508 with the agreement on her part, and when the injunction was dissolved, justice and good faith required that the surplus water should bave received the direction originally designed. But for some probable or sufficient cause it was deemed to be for the public interest to do otherwise. No legal contract was violated in so doing, and yet justice and good faith to Seely were disregarded, for he was left with a useless piece of canal on band, and all hopes and means of realizing the costs and expenses of constructing it were destroyed, save that which he is now pursuing.
We believe that compensation should be made to him. That is, if we were acting as legislators we would support, by our votes, a bill passed upon these principles.
Claims have been presented to the amount of from $30,000 to $50,000, for the losses sustained in the depreciation of real estate, purchased with a view to speculation, and now rendered of little value, owing to the diversion of the water of the canal, contrary to the understanding of the parties. These items of the master's report must be rejected. It is possible that profits to this amount might bave been realized by the complainant it the state had ful. filled the engagement of the canal commissioner. This, however, could have only happened by sales of property at an increased VOL. XI-28
Seely v. State of Ohio.
price beyond the purchase money, acquired by purchases made subsequently to the date of the contract entered into with the state. It would be injustice to the state to hold the complainant entitled to anticipated profits of this nature. In fact, he had no such profit, and can not, therefore, with strict propriety, be considered as having sustained a damage ip losing what he did not possess. If this is correct reasoning, the only claim which he can sustain is, for constructing the race through which the waters of the canal were to pass, between the points of leaving and being returned to the main channel, and the value of the land dedicated to the state and destroyed. All else was a matter of private specu609] lation, with which it seems tho state *had nothing to do. These are the only items of the report wbich should not be wholly rejected.
The report embraces all the expenditures made by the complainant in excavating the race, grading streets, etc., prior to his insolvency. How great a proportion was for work upon the race itself, does not appear, nor does the testimony and report furnish us with the means of determining. It must be returned to the county, with directions to the master to take further testimony, and report in accordance with these principles.
It remains to dispose of an objection to complainant's right to prosecute this petition, since his assignment to the commissioner of insolvents. In the views wbich we have taken of the case, the act under which we have jurisdiction in this matter confers all the right that complainant has to anything that may be decreed in his favor. At law, or in equity, he had no interest which could pass to a commissioner of insolvents. He bad not so performed as to acquire such legal right, even if the state could be sued as a natural person ; consequently the interest in this claim is conferred by the bill, and is a grant to him, subsequent to the assignment, based upon his moral, as contradistinguished from his legal rights.
LANE, C. J., dissenting. I can not bring my mind to concur with the views of my brethren in this case.
When the legislature committed the interests of Seely to our bands, to be determined by the principles of justice and good faith, I do not understand that they bave given us any othur rules than those which always guide the conscience of the chancellor.