Is the Contract of the Water Company a Measure of Its Duty to the Property Owner and Therefore Its Liability ?
In Mugge v. Tampa Waterworks Co., 52 Fla. 371, 42 So. 81, 86 (Fla. 1906), the plaintiff alleged that the contract between Tampa Waterworks and the City of Tampa provided "that the waterworks company should assume all liabilities to persons and property arising from the construction or operation of the waterworks system; and that said contract was made and acquiesced in by the defendant company for the benefit of citizens and property owners of the city, including the plaintiff." 42 So. at 81.
In concluding that the complaint sufficiently alleged a cause of action, this Court held "the contract of the water company is the measure of its duty to the property owner, and therefore of its liability." Id. at 86.
Tampa Waterworks had "assumed the public duty of furnishing water for extinguishing fires, according to the terms of its contract." Id.
In Woodbury v. Tampa Waterworks Co., 49 So. 556 (Fla. 1909), the plaintiff alleged that Tampa Waterworks Company breached its contractual duty with the City of Tampa to supply water to the fire hydrants in the immediate area where a fire began, thus causing the fire to spread to plaintiff's property.
This Court held that "the duty . . . owed to the plaintiff by virtue of the public service engaged in by the defendant was to supply the hydrants near the plaintiff's property with water as legally required . . . . the plaintiff has no right of action for a failure to furnish water where the plaintiff's property was not located, if such failure was not a proximate cause of the burning of the plaintiff's property." Woodbury, 49 So. at 559.
In Arenado v. Florida Power & Light Co., 541 So. 2d 612 (Fla. 1989), the court dismissed review because the lower court's decision did not conflict with those cases.
The Court stated:
"We now agree that Mugge and Woodbury were predicated upon special language in the Tampa Waterworks' contracts which does not exist here.
'The contract of the water company is the measure of its duty to the property owner.'" Id. at 614 (quoting Mugge, 42 So. at 86).