- Pennsylvania Coal Co
purchased a house and property, where he only had surface rights
to the property.
The deed conveyed reserved the right
to remove all the coal under the property to the coal company.
Mahon took the premises with risk
and waived all claim for damages that may arise.
The State of Pennsylvania
passed a statute forbidding the mining of coal in a manner such
to cause subsidence to any structure used for human habitation
or where such was located within 150 ft of the mine.
Court of Common Pleas
The Court of Common Pleas found that
if not restrained the defendant would cause the damage to
prevent which the bill was brought, but denied an injunction,
holding that the statute if applied to this case would be
Supreme Court of the State
On appeal the Supreme Court of the
State agreed that the defendant had contract and property rights
protected by the Constitution of the United States, but held
that the statute was a legitimate exercise of the police power
and directed a decree for the plaintiffs.
The statute forbids mining of coal
which would cause the subsidence of the Pl - house on the
surface and is a legitimate exercise of police powers in
protecting the safety of the public.
The statute would effectively
destroy the Df - rights that it retained under the K for the
sale of property, and if valid would constitute a taking.
Some value are enjoyed under an implied limitation and must
yield to police power
There are limits
Factors in determining Limits
Extend of diminution
When it reaches a certain magnitude,
in most if not in all cases there must be an exercise of eminent
domain and compensation to sustain the act.
The greatest weight is given to the
judgment of the legislature, but it always is open to interested
parties to contend that the legislature has gone beyond its
Court - Damage
This damage is private and not
The source of damage is not a public
The act cannot be sustained s an
exercise of the police power.
The right to coal consists in the
right to mine it.
Plymouth Coal Co. v. Pennsylvania, 232 U.S. 531,
It was held competent for the
legislature to require a pillar of coal to be left along the
line of adjoining property, that, with the pillar on the other
side of the line, would be a barrier sufficient for the safety
of the employees of either mine in case the other should be
abandoned and allowed to fill with water.
Only acquired surface rights
Private person or communities took a
risk acquiring only surface rights.
We cannot see that the fact that
their RISK has become a danger warrants giving to them greater
rights than they bought.
DISSENT Justice Brandeis
The right of the owner to use his land is NOT absolute
The owner may not create a public
Uses that change conditions
seriously threaten the public welfare.
When they do threaten the public
welfare, the legislature has poer to prohibit such uses without
Not a taking when restriction protects the publics health,
safety or morals.
This is a prohibition against a
The State merely prevents the owner
from making a use which interferes with paramount rights of the
Restrictions imposed for public
purpose will not be lawful UNLESS the restriction is an
appropriate MEANS to the public END.
To keep COAL in place is surely an
appropriate means to preventing subsidence of the surface.
How unloosing poisonous gases are
different than digging so deep that is causes surface problems?
Both are a public nuisance.
Values are relative
The sum of the rights in the parts
cannot be greater than the rights in the whole.