At common law, the landowner had no legal right, in the absence of an easement or uninterrupted use and enjoyment for a period of 20 years, to unobstructed light and air from the adjoining land. And the English doctrine of "ancient lights" has been unanimously repudiated in the United States. There being, then, no legal right to the free flow of light and air from the adjoining land, it is universally held that where a structure serves a useful and beneficial purpose, it does not give rise to a cause of action, either for damages or for an injunction under the maxim sic utere tuo ut alienum non laedas, even though it causes injury to another by cutting off the light and air and interfering with the view that would otherwise be available over adjoining land in its natural state, regardless of the fact that the structure may have been erected partly for spite.
Appellee hotel corporation brought a suit to enjoin appellant hotel corporations from continuing with the construction of a 14-story addition to a hotel owned and operated by appellants. Appellee claimed that the addition cast a shadow over the cabana, swimming pool, and sunbathing areas of a hotel owned and operated by appellee. The trial court granted appellee a temporary injunction, holding that no one had the right to use his property to the injury of another. Appellants sought review of the injunction. The appellate court reversed. he court held that the trial court erred in finding that appellant hotel corporations used their property to the injury of appellee.
Did the trial court err granting an injunction against construction that would shade an abutter's land that had been used for a pool area?
The trial court erred in applying the maxim sic utere tuo ut alienum non laedas. The court reasoned that the maxim meant only that one had to use his property so as not to injure the lawful rights of another. The court said that because there was no legal right to the free flow of light and air, appellants were not using their property to injure appellee's lawful rights. The court found, therefore, that appellee failed to establish a cause of action against appellants.