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Law School Case Brief

JACKSON v. BROWNSON - 7 Johns. 227


Under a lease, timber may and must be cut down to a certain extent, but not so as to cause an irreparable injury to the reversioner. To what extent wood may be cut before the tenant is guilty of waste, must be left to the sound discretion of a jury, under the direction of the trial court. Whenever wood has been cut in such a manner as materially to prejudice the inheritance, it is waste.


The lessors sought to recover the possession of half of a farm from the tenant on grounds that the tenant forfeited the lease by clearing the farm of most of its timber. The trial court found that the assignment of the lease for the northern half of the farm was a severance of the original lease, and that the gradual clearing of timber on the half of the farm retained by the tenant did not amount to waste. The tenant alleged that the lessors continued to accept rent and waived the right to claim waste from the timber removal. 


Did the trial court err in entering a judgment of nonsuit on grounds that the tenant committed waste against the farm?




The court set aside the trial court's judgment and granted the lessors a new trial. The tenant cleared most of the timber on the farm in such a manner as to prejudice the inheritance, which constituted waste. To what extent the timber could be cleared by the tenant without committing waste should have been left to the sound discretion of the jury, and the trial court erred entering a judgment of nonsuit. The court found no waiver of the forfeiture by the lessors through their acceptance of rent because they were not aware of the conditions on the farm. The assignment did not free the tenant from his obligations under the lease.

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