This section is from the book "The Law Of Real Property and Other Interests In Land", by Herbert Thorn Dike Tiffany. Also available from Amazon: A Treatise on the Modern Law of Real Property and Other Interests in Land .
But the lower owner is not liable for obstructing the flow of surface water which is the result of an unprecedented flood, this being regarded as an act of God. Estes v. Chicago, B. & Q. R. Co., 159 Iowa, 666, 141 N. W. 49; Madisonville, H. & E. R. Co. v. Thomas, 148 Ky. 131, 146 S. W. 33; St. Louis Southwestern R. Co. v. Mackey, 95 Ark. 297,
129 S. W. 78
38. This is a misnomer, since there appears never to have been any direct decision on the subject in England. See the English cases bearing on the question discussed by J. C. Thomson, Esq., in 23 Am. Law Rev. 372, 387, and by Professor John R. Rood in 6 Mich. Law Rev. 449. 452.
39. Tuscon v. Dunseath, 15 Ariz. 355, 139 Pac. 177; Little Rock etc. R. Co. v. Chapman, 39 Ark. 463, 43 Am. Rep. 280; Louisville, N. O. & T. R. Co. v. Jackson, 123 Ark. 1, 184 S. W. 450; Chadeayne v. Robinson, 55 Conn. 345, 3 Am. St. Rep. 55, 11 Atl. 592; Baltimore & O. R. Co. v. Thomas, 37 Dist. Col. App. 255; Clay v. Pittburgh C. C. & St. L. Rwy. Co., 164 Ind. 439, 73 N. E. 904; Taylor v. Fickas, 64 Ind. 167, 31 Am. Rep, 114; Benthall v. Seifert, 77 Ind. 302; Cleveland. C. C. & St. L. R. Co. v. Smith, 177 Ind. 524, 97 N. E. 164; Gibbs v. Williams, 25 Kan. 214, 37 Am. Rep. 241; Paola v. Garman, 80 Kan. 702, 103 Pac. 83; Murphy v. Kelley, 68 Me. 521; Gannon v. Hargadon, 10 Allen (Mass.) 106, 87 Am. Dec. 625; Bates v. Smith, 100 Mass. 181: Cassidy v. Old Colony R. Co., 141 Mass. 174, 5 N. E. 142; O'Neill v. St. Paul, 104 Minn. 491, 116 N. W. 114; states an artificial channel or drainway established by mutual consent has been assimilated to a natural one for this purpose.46
In so far as the rule of the civil law prevails, the right of action on account of erections which prevent the water from flowing off on the lower land is independent of whether the accumulation of water on the higher land causes actual damage. The owner of such land is entitled at least to nominal damages for the interference with his right.40 But there is obviously no right of action on account of the flooding of land as against one who has acquired an easement to flood the land. For instance, if a railway company acquires a right of way by purchase or condemnation through a particular tract of land, it presumably acquires, as included in the price paid, an easement to flood the balance
Holman v. Richardson, 115 Miss. 169, L. R. A. 1917F 942, 76 So. 136; Abbott v. Kansas City. St. J. & C. B. R. Co., 83 Mo. 271. 53 Am. Rep. 5S1; Goll v. Chicago & A. Ry. Co., 271 Mo. 655, 197 S. W. 244; Bowlsby v. Speer, 31 N. J. Law, 351, 86 Am. Dec. 216; Jess-up v. Bamford Bros. Silk Mfg Co., 66 N. J. L. 641, 58 L. R. A. 329, 88 Am. St. Rep. 502, 51 Atl. 147; Howard v. City of Buffalo, 211 N. Y. 241, 105 N. E. 426; Barkley v. Wilcox, 86 N. Y. 140, 40 Am. Ren. 519; Sabetto v. N. Y. Cent. & H, R. Co., 127 N. Y. App. Div. 832, 112 N. Y. Supp. 118; Chicago, R. I. & P. R. Co. v. Groves, 20 Okla. 101,.22 L. R. A. (N. S.) 802, 93 Pac. 755; Balt-zeger v. Carolina Midland R. Co., 54 S. C. 242, 71 Am. St. Rep. 789, 32 S. E. 358; Barnett v. Matagorda R. & I. Co., 98 Tex. 355, 83 S. W. 801; McGehee v. Tidewater R. Co., 108 Va. 508, 62 S. E. 356; Cass v. Dicks, 14 Wash. 75, 53 Am. St. Rep. 859, 44 Pac. 113; Harvey v. Northern Pac. R. Co., 63 Wash. 669, 116
Pac. 464; Lessard v. Stram, 62 Wis. 12, 51 Am. St. Rep. 715, 22 N. W. 284;Clauson v. Chicago & N. W. R. Co., 106 Wis. 308, 82 X. W. 146; Walker v. New Mexico & S- P. R. Co., 165 U. S. 601, 41 L. Ed. 843.
That the owner of land may by such erections or changes upon his land cause the water which would otherwise have flowed upon his land to flow upon another's land, see Parks v. Newburyport, 10 Gray (Mass.) 28; Jordan v. St. P., M. & M. R. Co., 42 Minn. 172, 6 L .R. A. 573, 43 N. W. 849; Bowlsby v. Speer, 31 N. J. L. 351, 86 Am. Dec. 216; Barkley v. Wilcox, 86 N. Y. 140. 40 Am. Rep. 519: Clauson v. Chicago & N. W. R. Co., 106 Wis. 308, 82 N. W. 146.
40. Harvey v. Mason City & Fort Dodge R. Co., 129 lowa, 465, 113 Am. St. Rep. 483. 3 L. R. A. (N. S.) 973, 105 N. W. 958; Tootle v. Clifton, 22 Ohio St. 247, 10 Am. Rep. 732; Pastorius v. Fisher, 1 Rawle (Pa.) 27.
R. P.-74 of the tract so far as this may be necessary in the construction of the railroad, and it will consequently be liable on account of such flooding only in so far as the flooding is the result of a failure to exercise due diligence to avoid it.41
In some states in which the civil law rule that the lower proprietor cannot obstruct the flow of the water is approved, it has been regarded as inapplicable in cities and towns, where alterations in the surface of lots are essential to their utilization and are to be anticipated, and an artificial system of drainage is available.42 In Pennsylvania this latter view has been adopted, subject to the qualification that the lower owner, in improving his lot, must use due diligence to avoid and it harmonizes with the rule of reasonable user as applied in other departments of the law of waters
41. Fleming v. Elgin, J. & E. Ry. Co., 275 111. 486, 114 N. E. 187; Blunck v. Chicago & N. W. R. Co., 142 Iowa, 146, 120 N. W. 737; Benson v. Chicago & A. R. Co., 78 Mo. 504; Yazoo & M. V. R. Co. v. Davis, 73 Miss. 678, 55 Am. St. Rep. 562, 32 L. R. A. 262, 19 So. 487; Conn v. Chicago, B.
& Q. R. Co., 88 Neb. 732, 130 N. W. 563; Kelly v. Kansas City Southern Rwy. Co., 92 Ark. 465, 123 S. W. 664; Madisonville, H. & E. R. Co. v. Renfro (Ky.) 127 S. W. 508; U'pdegrove v. Pennsylvania, S. V. R. Co., 132 Pa. 540,
7 L. R. A. 213, 19 Atl. 283; Han-naher v. St. Paul, M. & M. R. Co., 5 Dak. 1, 37 N. W. 717.
When the obstruction is not by the owner of land, but by one merely having a right of way across another's land, as is quite frequently the case when the obstruction is by a railway embankment, the "common law" rule of immunity from liability in favor of the owner of lower land would seem to have no application, and the railroad company should be bald liable unless the original award of damages against it in favor of the owner of the land damaged included the damage in question. See Louisville, N. O. & T. R. Co. v. Jackson, 123 Ark. 1, 184 S. W. 450.