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Under the equitable comparative hardship doctrine, a court may decline to issue an injunction where the hardship and inconvenience which would result from the injunction is greatly disproportionate to the harm to be remedied. Innocent mistake on the part of the party to be enjoined is a factor to be considered in applying the doctrine.
The doctor had operated his practice out of his home for many years with no objections. The doctor decided that he wished to move from the municipality but that he desired to operate his office in his old home. The municipality brought an action for an injunction against the doctor based upon the claim that the doctor violated a restrictive covenant in his deed, which limited the use of his property to residential uses. The lower court refused to enter the injunction, and the present appeal followed.
Under the doctrine of comparative hardship should the court decline to enforce the restrictive covenants?
The court reversed and remanded. The court held that, even though the municipality had acquiesced to a possible violation of the restrictive covenant, under the circumstances, the doctor was attempting a new use, and the municipality was not bound by the doctrine of laches to permit the doctor to use the property differently than he had before. The court ruled that the equitable doctrine of comparative hardship did not warrant relief to the doctor because the harm to his neighbors' homes was not negligible and was not outweighed by the doctor's desire to move to another residential area.