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New York, O. & W. R. Co. v. Livingston

New York Court of Appeals
144 N.E. 589 (1924)


Edward Livingston devised a life estate in a farm to Charles Octavius Livingston (Octavius). Edward’s will provided that the farm would pass to Octavius’s son, Charles Victor Livingston (Victor) (defendant), upon Octavius’s death. The will also prohibited any descendant of Octavius from conveying the farm outside of the Livingston family. Octavius conveyed the farm to Morss and his heirs. The conveyance estopped the grantees from claiming any title, estate, or interest in the farm. In 1872, Morss granted the New York, Ontario & Western Railroad Company (the railroad) (plaintiff) a right of way through the farm and later granted the railroad a portion of the land surrounding the right of way, in fee. The railroad, believing that it owned this land in fee, improved the land, including a train station and a freight house. Octavius died in 1914. In 1917, Victor asserted ownership of the land. Victor won an ejectment action. Subsequently, the railroad filed an eminent domain claim seeking to take title to that portion of the farm necessary for a public way. The land under the right of way was valued at $15,000 and the railroad’s improvements on the land during its earlier possession were valued at $49,000. The trial court ordered the railroad to pay this total amount—$64,000—to compensate Victor for the eminent domain taking. The railroad appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Cardozo, J.)

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