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. 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.
A hotel corporation brought a suit to enjoin another hotel corporation from continuing with the construction of a 14-story addition to one of its hotels. It claimed that the addition cast a shadow over the cabana, swimming pool, and sunbathing areas of its own hotel. The trial court granted a temporary injunction, holding that no one had the right to use his property to the injury of another. The case was elevated to the District Court of Appeal of Florida.
Was the temporary injunction proper?
The court found that hotel corporation seeking injunction failed to establish a cause of action. The court held that the trial court erred in applying the maxim sic utere tuo ut alienum non laedas. The court explained 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, the hotel undergoing construction did not use their property to injure the hotel corporation's lawful rights.