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HR Moch Company v. Rensselaer Water Company Case Brief

Summary of HR Moch Company v. Rensselaer Water company (1928), NY CT of Appeals

Facts:  The water company (Rensselaer) had a contract with The City of Rensseelaer to provide water for sewage, sprinkling, schools, and hydrants.  Hydrants were priced at $42.50 per year for service.  A nearby building caught fire, thus causing P Moch’s building to catch fire.  Ps building was destroyed along with its contents.

The D water company, Rensselaer, now stands accused by P of not supplying enough water and/or enough water pressure to suppress the fire despite being properly notified of the fire. The D was said by P to have been neglectful by virtue of the allegation that D did not fulfill their contract.  P contends that D did, in fact have all of the necessary resources to put out the fire, yet did not move forward with appropriate duty of care.

Procedure:  Trial Court denies motion to dismiss.  The Appellate Division reverses.  Court of Appeals of NY affirms.

Issue:  Has the D, the alleged wrongdoer, failed to perform in a situation where they were required to serve in furtherance of the good?  Did the city have a duty to go forward?

Rationale:  No.  The action is not maintainable for breach of statutory duty.  The water company entered into a contract with the city to provide service, which they did in the present case.  Extending this contractual obligation to provide each and every citizen in a particular city with an amount of water supply/pressure to extinguish a large fire would surpass a reasonable duty of care.

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