Surocco v. Geary

3 Cal. 69 (1853)

 

RULE:

A person who destroys property in good faith, and under apparent necessity, in an emergency in order to save other buildings cannot be held personally liable by the owner of the destroyed property.

FACTS:

During a fire the Defendant, a public official,  decided to tear down Plaintiffs building in order to stop the progress of the fire. Plaintiffs brought an action against the Defendant for destruction of their house and store.The trial court found the Defendant liable. Defendant appealed.

ISSUE:

Does a person or public officer have the right to pull down a building, acting in good faith for the purpose of preventing the spreading of a public conflagration, without being personally liable therefor in damages?

ANSWER:

Yes

CONCLUSION:

A person who tears down or destroys the house of another, in good faith, and under apparent necessity, during the time of a conflagration, for the purpose of saving the buildings adjacent and stopping its progress, cannot be held personally liable in an action by the owner of the property destroyed. The private rights of the individual must yield to the considerations and the interests of society.

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