Torts I, Pages 432–433

H.R. Moch Co. v. Rensselaer Water Co.

Court of Appeals of New York, 1928

Facts:

Defendant was contracted to provide the city of Pensselaer with water, including for fire hydrants. While this contract was in force, a building caught fire. Defendant did not supply the hydrants with enough pressure to extinguish the fire, leading to plaintiff's warehouse burning down. Had defendant supplied the contracted amount of water, the fire would not have reached plaintiff's warehouse.

Procedural History:

Court of special term denied defendant's demurrer to dismiss the complaint. The Appellate Division reversed by a divided court.

Issue:

Does defendant owe a duty to provide water to everyone they contracted with the city to provide water for?

Rule:

When a water company contracts with a city to supply water, they are not liable to any third-party plaintiff to supply water.

Reasoning:

Holding that a duty exists here would greatly expand the liability of manufacturers to an indefinite number of potential beneficiaries.

Rule/Holding:

While inaction that would commonly result in working an injury gives rise to a duty, entering into a contract with someone else to do good does not.

Judgment:

Affirmed with costs.

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