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Coffin v. Left Hand Ditch Co.

    Citation6 Colo. 443
    6 Colo. 443

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Plaintiff sued the defendant for trespass and an injunction when defendant interfered with his ditch system.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Enforceable property rights in the quantity of water used is gained by the first party that puts the water to productive use.

    Facts.

    Plaintiff Left Hand Ditch Co. built a dam and ditch system next to his property. Defendant Coffin owned property downstream a creek from plaintiff’s dam. The dam limited the amount of water available defendant’s land. Plaintiff sued the defendant for trespass and an injunction. The trial court ruled for plaintiff. Defendant appealed.

    Issue.

    Whether enforceable property rights in the quantity of water used is gained by the first party that puts the water to productive use.

    Held.

    Yes. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

    Dissent.

    N/A

    Concurrence.

    N/A

    Discussion.

    In this case, because of Colorado’s climate, it’s not uncommon to find barren soil along a watercourse and fertile soil some distance away. Therefore, a person who wants to use water on land adjacent to a watercourse has no greater claim of right than another person who is a certain distance away.


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