Surocco v. Geary Facts: During the great fire of 1949 the City Alcalde, by authority and office, ordered the destruction of homes, by dynamite, to stop the spread of the fire. Pl’s home was one such home destroyed. Pl was in the process of removing personal items when ordered to cease and the home was blown up. Issue: Whether a person who destroys the house of another, in good faith, and under necessity, during the time of conflagration, for the purpose of saving the adjacent building, and stopping the progress of the fire, can be held liable in an action by the owner of the property destroyed? Holding: No Procedure: PL filed suit against Df Geary jury returned verdict for PL and Df appeals. Reversed. Rule: Necessitas inducit privilegium quod jura privata [necessity provides a privilege for private rights] A house on fire, or those in its immediate vicinity, which serve to communicate flames, in the interests of society must yield to the rights of preserving the whole of society. Ct. Rationale: The blowing up of the house was necessary, as it would have been consumed by flame had it been left standing. The Practice Act of 1850 allows the destruction of property to prevent the spread of conflagration. The trespass onto lands to prevent or escape death by an enemy. PL A: The immediate necessity to thwart the continued conflagration warranted the destruction of many homes which in fact subsided the flames growth. Def A: The Alcalde lacked the discretion to issue an order condemning the house. There wasn’t an actual or apparent necessity. Vincent v. Lake Erie Transp. Co. Facts: A steamship was moored to a dock when a storm came in. If the ship had been cut loose from the dock, it would have been blown away and might have caused damage to something else. Instead, the ship was tied to the dock, but because of the storm, it kept hitting the dock, damaging it. The owner of the dock sued the owner of the steamship. The trial court found for the plaintiffs and the defendant appealed. Issue: Does the defendant have the privilege by necessity to moor the ship such that the defendant is not liable? Rule: The defendant has a partial privilege to protect its private property from serious harm. The defendant will be subject to liability to anyone who is injured. Analysis: The court basically says to the defendant that what it did was right under the circumstances, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to pay the plaintiff for the damage done. The court implicitly distinguishes this case from Surocco in that the former case dealt with public necessity. Conclusion: The court affirmed the order denying a new trial.
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