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U.S. Supreme Court

Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Comm'n v. Colburn, 310 U.S. 419 (1940)

Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission v. Colburn

No. 563

Argued February 26, 1940

Decided May 27, 1940

310 U.S. 419


1. The construction of a compact made between two States and sanctioned by an Act of Congress involves a federal "title, right, privilege or immunity" which, when "specially set up and claimed" in a state court, may be reviewed under § 237(b) of the Judicial Code. P. 310 U. S. 427.

2. The compact of 1934 between New Jersey and Pennsylvania created a commission to perform state functions, including the location, construction and operation of bridges over the Delaware River; to that end, it authorized the commission to acquire real property by purchase or eminent domain, defining real property as embracing "interests in land," including "claims for damages to real estate," and provided that, where resort to eminent domain was needful for the acquisition of such interests, the exercise of the power should be "in the manner provided" by an Act of New Jersey of April 1, 1912, as amended.


(1) That, beyond payment for the land or interests therein of the price agreed upon by the Commission or fixed by proceedings in eminent domain, the Compact imposes no obligation on the Commission to compensate for damages inflicted by its acts, but leaves the Commission to such liability as is imposed by the law of the State within which the Commission acts, including the Act of 1912, as amended, insofar as the Compact has made that Act applicable. P. 310 U. S. 428.

(2) Under the generally applicable decisions and statutes of New Jersey, the Commission is not liable to pay such consequential damages. P. 310 U. S. 430.

(3) The New Jersey statute of 1912, mentioned in the Compact, was, by its terms, applicable to a commission other than petitioner, and authorized the former to acquire, by a prescribed procedure, existing bridges by purchase or eminent domain and to determine "damages for property taken, injured or destroyed." P. 310 U. S. 429.

(4) Under the Compact, the New Jersey statute of 1912 is excluded from the operation of the Compact except as it affords a manner or procedure for exercising the right of eminent domain,

Page 310 U. S. 420

which is called into operation by the Compact only if the Commission is unable to acquire needed property by purchase, and then only a a means of fixing the compensation which, under the Compact, the Commission is required to pay. P. 310 U. S. 431.

3. Even though it were intended by the Compact to adopt the rule of damages prescribed by Art. XVI, § 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution (1874), which provide that

"[m]unicipal 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 . . . ,"

that section, as construed by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania before the adoption of the Compact, applies only where there is a taking by eminent domain, and, in the absence of statute, gives no right of recovery from a landowner for consequential damages resulting from structures erected wholly on his own land, whether acquired by purchase or by eminent domain. P. 310 U. S. 432.

123 N.J.L.197, 8 A.2d 563, reversed.

Certiorari, 308 U.S. 549, to review the affirmance of a judgment sustaining a special verdict and awarding a peremptory mandamus (119 N.J.L. 600; 197 A. 896) requiring the Bridge Commission to pay consequential damages resulting from the construction of a bridge abutment on land purchased by the Commission, or to take further proceedings for a determination of the amount.

Page 310 U. S. 425

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