Under the doctrine of laches, if a party, knowing his rights, does not seasonably assert them, but by unreasonable delay suffers his adversary to incur expense or enter into obligations or otherwise detrimentally change his position, then equity will ordinarily refuse to enforce those rights, especially if an injunction is asked. Whether the plaintiff is barred from relief is to be determined on the facts of each case, taking into consideration whether the delay has worked injury, prejudice, or disadvantage to the other party. Laches is an affirmative defense which must be raised by the pleadings. S.C. R. Civ. P. 8(c).
The landowner brought an action against the trustee for trespass and alleged that water from the trustee's pond had flooded the landowner's property. The trustee asserted that the landowner gave permission for the flooding of his property. The master-in-equity awarded damages, but denied the landowners' demand for an injunction on the ground that he was guilty of laches.
Did the master-in-equity err when he awarded damages but denied the landowners' demand for an injunction?
The court held that the master erred when he applied the doctrine of laches to prevent the landowner's relief because the landowner was not guilty of unreasonable delay, and the trustee was not prejudiced by the landowner's withdrawal of permission. The court reversed and remanded for the entry of an order permanently enjoining the trustee from backing water on the landowner's property.