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Caullett v. Stanley Stilwell & Sons, Inc

    Citation. 67 N.J. Super. 111, 170 A.2d 52, 1961 N.J. Super.

    Brief Fact Summary. The Developer and Defendant, Stanley Stilwell & Sons, Inc. (Defendant), who sold land, put in covenant reserving right of developer to construct the original dwelling or building on the premises. The Plaintiff and owner, Caullett (Plaintiff), brought bill to quiet title.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. A benefit in gross (personal) cannot be enforced when the burden attaches to the land. There is a strong policy against hindering the alienability of property where there is no corresponding enhancement of the property.


    Facts. The property in question was sold by a deed that contained a recital that the Defendant would be the developer who would construct the original dwelling or building on the premises. Defendant and Plaintiff attempted to negotiate concerning how the house would be constructed but no resolution was reached and negotiations collapsed. The plaintiff sought to strike the recital in the deed as an unenforceable easement.

    Issue. Is a covenant granting a developer a personal right to construct the first building on a particular property enforceable?

    Held. The burden is placed upon the land and the benefit is personal, therefore it cannot be enforced. No dominant estate existed which was essential for the validity of the servitude in New Jersey. A person cannot be the dominant estate in whose favor a servitude could be granted.
    Policy is against enforcing burdens that would restrict the free alienability of property. In this case, no servitude could be upheld that would restrict the ability to sell by placing a burden on the property unless the surrounding lands would benefit or be enhanced by that servitude.

    Discussion. A personal benefit cannot be enforced. Court stated that if there was an intention to dispense broader land use benefits, in the form of a neighborhood scheme, then it could possibly be enforced but that was not the case under these facts. Here, the developer alone and not the surrounding property or community was to benefit.


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