Is Granting a License to To the Person Who Donates the Largest Sum to a County Allowed ?
In County of La Salle v. Simmons, 10 Ill. (5 Gilm.) 513, 518 (1849), county commissioners gave notice that they would grant a license for a ferry service across the Illinois River to the person who donated the largest sum to the county.
The plaintiff had kept the ferry up to that time, and he bid $ 500 for the license.
The plaintiff later sued for return of his money plus interest.
The supreme court concluded that the commissioners exceeded their statutory authority and did not have discretion as to the sum to be paid for the franchise:
"They decided to establish the ferry, but chose only to grant the license to the person that would pay the largest amount of money for the franchise in addition to the [$ 100] tax which they might legally impose." Simmons, 10 Ill. at 517.
The court held that the commissioners wrongfully obtained money from the plaintiff that they could not in equity and good conscience retain:
"The money was exacted from the plaintiff under circumstances that strip the transaction of all the features of a voluntary payment.
It was in law and fact a compulsory payment, as much so as the payment of usurious interest, which the lender exacts from the borrower; or the payment of illegal charges, which an officer demands as the condition of the performance of official services." Simmons, 10 Ill. at 518.
As to interest, the court held that the plaintiff was entitled to interest because the money was wrongfully obtained and illegally withheld from him:
"The plaintiff was deprived of the use of his money without his fault, and he ought to receive compensation by the allowance of interest in the way of damages.
Where a defendant fraudulently obtained or wrongfully detained the money of the plaintiff, he is chargeable with interest from the time of his so obtaining or detaining the same.
Where money is obtained by fraud or deceit, and the party injured waives the tort and brings his action on the implied promise to restore it, interest may be allowed as damages." Simmons, 10 Ill. at 520.