This section is from the book "Popular Law Library Vol8 Partnership, Private Corporations, Public Corporations", by Albert H. Putney. Also available from Amazon: Popular Law-Dictionary.
Quasi-public corporations are corporations which although organized and conducted for private profit, yet because they carry on a business of a public nature, are subjected to a higher degree of public control than other corporations, and on the other hand are possessed of rights and privileges of a public nature.
"A distinction is also made between private corporations and corporations which directly benefit and accommodate the public. The latter are known as quasi-public corporations and are such corporations as railroad companies, telegraph and telephone companies, turnpike and canal companies, and the like, and under the decision in the reported case the property of a quasi-public corporation is no more subject to a mechanic's lien than the property of a strictly public corporation. The distinction between a quasi-public corporation and others is made in the following cases: Tippecanoe County vs. Lafayette, etc., R. Co., 50 Ind., 85; Railroad Comr's. vs. Portland, etc., Cent. C. Co., 63 Me., 269; McKim vs. Odom,
3 Bland (Md.), 407; Foster vs. Fowler, 60 Pa. St., 27; Allegheny County vs. McKeesport Diamond Market, 123 Pa. St., 164. In Miner's Ditch Co. vs. Zellerbacy 37 Cal., 543, it is said: There are several classes of corporations, such as public municipal corporations, the leading object of which is to promote the public interest; corporations technically private, but yet of a quasi-public character, having in view some great public enterprise, in which the public interests are directly involved to such an extent as to justify conferring upon them important governmental powers, such as an exercise of the right of eminent domain.' 'It is held that a corporation cannot be quasi-public without the right of eminent domain. Com. vs. Lowell Gas Light Co., 12 Allen (Mass.), 75. The proposition laid down in the reported case, that for a corporation to be public or quasi-public the public must enjoy its benefits by right and not merely by permission, is a sound distinction, and conclusive as to the character of the corporation under consideration.' "