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land, in the performance of which the opposite party has so material an interest, that its non-performance cannot be adequately compensated by damages at law. (2)
222. If a railway company (a) agree for the purchase of land, they stand in the position of any ordinary purchaser. Supposing therefore the company deliberately take possession before the purchase is complete, and this without the consent of the owner, as a general rule, they become liable to perform the contract specifically on their part, and may at the same time be restrained from retaining such possession until the purchase money is paid into court. (b) And the court may order the money to be paid in, though the company are willing to give up the possession. (c) This, however, does not apply to case where the acts relied on as constituting a taking possession on the part of the company have been done under a mistake, and when the company subsequently do all that they can to rectify the mistake. (d)
(2) Storer v. The Great Western Railway Company, 3 Railw. Cas. 106; S. C. 2 Y. & C. N. C. 48; see ante, p. 123.
(a) As to the liability the company incur by giving a notice of their intention to take lands under their act, see post, sub-sect. 7, p. 199. As to their liability for compensation money assessed by a jury, and the mode of enforcing the same, see same sub-sect. post.
(b) Hyde v. The Great Western Railway Company, 1 Railw. Cas. 278; Robertson v. The Great Western Railway Company, ibid. 459.
(c) Judgment of Vice-Chancellor in Tomlinson v. The Manchester and Birmingham Railway Company, 2 Railw. Cas. 104. (d) Tomlinson v. The Manchester and Birmingham Railway Company, 2 Railw. Cas. 104.
223. If a railway company contract for the purchase of land, which may or may not be eventually required for the purposes of their act, the company being undetermined whether to carry their line through the land in question, or in a direction to avoid it (in which latter case, of course, their authority to purchase such land under their act would be at an end), a court of equity would hardly, it is conceived, decree a specific performance of such a contract while this state of things continues, as the effect might be to thrust upon the company as purchasers land which in the event they might prove incapable of taking. (e) Not but what if the owner could show that, owing to the conduct of the company, he has been incapacitated from applying his land to some profitable use as he otherwise might have done; or that he has been led on by the company to give up in their favour some particular speculation that he had formed for employing his property; he might perhaps in those respects be entitled to relief, if he shaped his complaint accordingly. (f)
II. Of the Liabilities of a Railway Company
224. It is proposed in the next place to treat of the liabilities of railway companies ex delicto; and here three questions suggest themselves for our consideration. 1st, how far a railway company is capable of committing a tort; 2ndly, when a tort can be considered to be the public act of the company as
(e) See Tomlinson v. The Manchester and Birmingham Railway Company, 2 Railw. Cas. 104.
such; and 3rdly, assuming an act to be such as a railway company is competent to do, and to be in point of fact or law their act, what are its character and incidents.
225. 1st. A railway company being a mere politic person, cannot itself be guilty of a trespass or other like act, which implies a physical capacity of action. But still it may in point of fact authorize the commission of such acts by another on its behalf. It seems to follow, that at all events whatever act a railway company can in its politic capacity competently order to be done on its behalf, it is liable for the consequences, if it be of a tortious nature, and to the prejudice of others. (g) Now in general under this description are to be included such acts alone as are expressly authorized by the company's statute, or are fairly and reasonably requisite for attaining the purposes of its institution. Supposing therefore the act in question not to be fairly reducible to either of these heads, the safer course would seem to be to seek a remedy against those to whom the act can be immediately brought home in their individual capacity.
226. 2ndly. We have to consider when a tort may be taken to be the act of the company as such. A railway company, we have seen, may act in three ways, either by the resolutions of a public meeting, or by a vote of the directors, or, lastly, by an agent duly appointed under the common seal of the company. (h) The two former modes of action indeed may be regarded as in a great measure coincident
(g) See Yarborough v. The Bank of England, and cases there cited, 16 East, 6.
(h) See ante, p. 70 et seq.
with the latter; as to carry out the vote of the company or the directors, the co-operation of a duly constituted agent is in general necessary.
227. Although ordinarily it may be necessary that the agent of a railway company should have an authority under their common seal, in order to render the company liable in tort for his acts, yet the rule must at any rate be understood with certain exceptions. Ordinary services, for instance, constitute one class of established exceptions; (i) and again, where an act is done for the benefit of a railway company, and they subsequently adopt and avail themselves of it, the company cannot, it should seem, excuse themselves, on the ground of the actors not being authorised under the common seal of the company. (k) Even where it is essential that the company should have authorized the act under their common seal, such an authority will be presumed after verdict. (1)
228. The act of the servant or agent, in order to charge the company, must of course be such as falls within the scope of the former's authority. A contractor for the execution of railway works it seems is to be deemed an agent of the company, and therefore what he does in the course of the execution of such works is the act of the company. (m) And
(i) Cary v. Mathews, 1 Salk. 191; Manby v. Long. 3 Lev.
(k) See Smith v. The Birmingham Gas Light Company, 1 Ad. & E. 526.
(1) Yarborough v. The Bank of England, 16 East, 6; see also Thames Haven Dock and Railway Company v. Hall, 5 M. & Gr. 274.
(m) Semple v. The London and Birmingham Railway Company, 1 Railw. Cas. 480.
where the company give a general authority to a party to manage any branch of their business, whatever that party does in the fair exercise of such authority the company are responsible for; even though they are ignorant of the particular plan adopted by him, and though such plan be a departure from the original and understood method, which the company had no reason to suppose was discontinued. (n)
229. 3rdly. We have to inquire into the character and incidents of the supposed acts of the company. Such acts are mainly reducible to three heads; 1st, acts done in violation of those general duties which a railway company, in common with the ordinary members of the community, owe to that community; 2dly, acts done or omitted to be done in violation of their duty as owners of property whether real or personal; and 3rdly, acts done or omitted to be done against the duties cast upon them by their act or acts of incorporation, or any general act.
230. First, for any damage to or conversion of another's personal property, or for any other like tortious interference with the same, a railway company are clearly liable. Where therefore the company seized the plant, materials, &c. of a railway contractor, under a clause of forfeiture contained in the latter's contract, the contractor having previously become bankrupt and the subject matter of forfeiture consequently having been removed by the intervention of the title of the assignees, an action. of trover was held to lie against them at the suit of the assignees. (o) So, likewise, for any act of ouster, (n) Rex v. Medley, 6 C. & P. 292.
(0) Rouch v. Great Western Railway Company, 2 Railw. Cas.