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U.S. Supreme Court

District of Columbia v. Robinson, 180 U.S. 92 (1901)

District of Columbia v. Robinson

No. 88

Argued November 7-8, 1900

Decided January 7, 1901

180 U.S. 92


The testator of the defendants in error commenced in his lifetime an action against the District of Columbia for trespasses on land of his in the District. The alleged trespasses consisted in entering on the land and digging up and removing, under claim of right, a quantity of gravel to be used for repairing and constructing public highways. The testator died before the action was brought to trial. His executors brought it to trial and secured a verdict and judgment in their behalf, which was sustained by the Court of Appeals of the District. The issues involved are stated fully by the Court in its opinion here, on which statement it is held:

(1) That as there was no evidence of a formal grant, and as the District relied upon an alleged dedication of the trust to the uses to which the District put it, the issue was properly submitted to the jury;

(2) That the Court did not err in holding and instructing the jury that the use of the tract by the public must have been adverse to the owner of the fee;

(3) That there was no error in holding and instructing the jury that the prescriptive right of highway was confined to the width as actually and without any intermission used for the period of twenty years;

(4) That there was no error in so instructing the jury as to deprive the District of a legal presumption that the public acts required to be performed by it in order to give the right claimed had been performed;

(6) That there was no error in leaving to the jury the question whether chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 180 U. S. 93

the District of Columbia had done the acts constituting the trespass, without the execution of its lawful powers according to law;

(6) That there was no error in submitting to the jury the question whether the gravel was obtained incident to the lawful exercise of the power to grade;

(7) That there was no error in sustaining the twelfth prayer of the defendants in error, and thereby submitting to the jury to find and determine both the law and facts of the case, and also thereby holding that, if the jury found any one of the facts enumerated in said prayer without regard to its probative force, it would tend to prove that Harewood Road was not a public way, and rebut any presumption that it was a public highway;

(8) That there was no error in refusing the twenty-third prayer of the District;

(9) That the Court properly instructed the jury that they might enhance the damages that would make the claimants whole by any sum not greater than the interest on such account from the time of the filing of the original declaration.

The case is stated in the opinion of the Court.

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