Here is an Interesting Issue.
Wm. Wainwright, John A. Remsen and Sarah Tabor sued the Queens County (N. Y.) Water Company to recover $30,000 damages, alleging that the defendants had guaranteed to supply the village of Rockaway, Queens county, with water, to furnish five hydrants and to make the force of water strong enough to throw it forty feet high through an inch hose. They further allege that the Seaside House, in the village of Rockaway, was burned down on September 13, 1892, and claim that if the water supply had been a proper one, such as the defendant company guaranteed to furnish, the building might have been saved.
A demurrer to the complaint was filed by the defendants, and the question was raised whether or not a private individual had a right to sue a water company to recover damages for injuries sustained through violation of the company’s contract with the public authorities to supply water for the extinction of fires to a specified district.
Argument was had before Judge Bartlett of the Supreme Court, who handed down a decision overru’ing the demurrer and giving the defendant leave to answer. Judge Bartlett says in his opinion that there is no direct authority on the subject in this State. The Court of Appeals had held in what may be called canal cases that contractors for repairs to the canals were liable to private persons who were injured by the failure of the contractors to keep their agreements with the State.
In these cases, however, the functions’of the contractors were held to be public functions “such as public officers usually performed, and this difference might distinguish them from the present case. The case of Little against Banks was an action brought by a law bookseller to recover damages sustained in consequence of the defendant’s breach of contract with the State as to the sale of the New York Reports. In that case the court said: “Contractors with the State who assume fora consideration received from the sovereign power, by covenant express or implied, to do certain things, are liable, in case of neglect to perform such covenant, to a private action at the suit of the party injured by such neglect, and such contract inures to the benefit of the individual who is interested in its performance.” The stipulation in the contract under which the plaintiff sued was for the benefit of the public in so far as it tended to promote a circulation of the State reports at reasonable rates. The provision in the contract under which the present suit was brought as to the water supply in the [Rockaway fire district must be similarly considered as for the benefit of the public in that locality. “ It seems to me,” concludes [Judge Bartlett, “that the cases are so nearly alike in principle that if the right of action in favor of a private person*’exists in one case it must exist in the other. This conclusion is based on the assumption that the contract with the water company is a contract with the public authorities. The learned counsel for the defendant so treats it in his brief, and I think correctly.”