Hinman v. Pac. Air Transp.

84 F.2d 755 (9th Cir. 1936)



We own so much of the space above the ground as we can occupy or make use of, in connection with the enjoyment of our land. This right is not fixed. It varies with our varying needs and is coextensive with them. The owner of land owns as much of the space above him or her as is used, but only so long as he or she uses it. All that lies beyond belongs to the world.


The landowner filed suit against the airlines seeking injunctive relief and damages for alleged trespasses of airline flights over his land. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the landowner's bills. The court held that the landowner did not allege an injury by trespass that was legally sufficient. 


Does traversing the airspace above appellants' land considered trespassing?




The case differs from the usual case of enjoining a trespass. Ordinarily, if a trespass is committed upon land, the plaintiff is entitled to at least nominal damages without proving or alleging any actual damage. In the instant case, traversing the airspace above appellants' land is not, of itself, a trespass at all, but it is a lawful act unless it is done under circumstances which will cause injury to appellants' possession. Appellants do not, therefore, in their bill state a case of trespass, unless they allege a case of actual and substantial damage. The bill fails to do this. It merely draws a naked conclusion as to damages without facts or circumstances to support it. It follows that the complaint does not state a case for injunctive relief.

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