OTIS CO. V. LUDLOW MFG. CO., 201 U. S. 140 (1906)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Otis Co. v. Ludlow Mfg. Co., 201 U.S. 140 (1906)

Otis Company v. Ludlow Manufacturing Company

No. 73

Argued March 1, 2, 1906

Decided March 12, 1906

201 U.S. 140


Where the federal question is distinctly set up in the bill, and insisted on at every stage, and the state court could not have decided as it did without overruling the claim, this Court has jurisdiction to review the judgment on writ of error.

In determining whether a statute of a state is constitutional, this Court cannot wholly neglect the long settled law and common understanding of that state, and will not, under the Fourteenth Amendment, upset what has long been established and accepted. Even the incidents of ownership may be cut down by the peculiar laws and usages of a state.

Under the Massachusetts Mill Act, the right of the lower owner only becomes complete when the land is flowed, and then it is only a right to maintain a dam subject to paying the upper owners for harm actually done in pursuance of the terms of the act. In a suit at equity brought by the upper owner to restrain the lower owner from building a dam, the state court having declared generally that the Mill Act is valid, but not having definitely expressed itself as to its constitutionality, and as the opinion of this Court may depend upon the interpretation of the act by the state court, held that the bill should be dismissed without prejudice or retained until plaintiff's rights have been determined in an action for damages under the statute pending in the state court.

The facts are stated in the opinion.

Page 201 U. S. 150

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