Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiffs, Chester Rick (Rick) and his assigns (Plaintiffs), subdivided 62 acres of land and sold a lot to the Defendant, Catherine West (Defendant), subject to a court-filed declaration of covenants restricting land to single family dwellings. Later, the assigns sought to build a hospital facility on the remaining lots but, Defendant refused to release the covenant. Plaintiffs alleged that a substantial change of conditions had occurred and the covenant was not enforceable.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Restriction that is not outmoded and affords a real benefit to the person seeking enforcement may be enforced and no pecuniary damages should be given in lieu of enforcement.
Issue. Where hospital authorities sought to acquire land restricted to residential purposes, should a single home owner be allowed to enforce the covenant thereby preventing the hospital or should covenant be determined not enforceable and home owner compensated with pecuniary damages?
Held. Defendant had right to rely upon residential restriction and continues to have the right to rely upon and enforce the restriction. Only upon evidence of a substantial change in the neighborhood that would render the defendant’s enforcement of the covenant unconscionable or oppressive. The restriction is not outmoded by a change in the character of the neighborhood and continues to provide a real benefit to the defendant. The court must continue to enforce the covenant.
Discussion. The opinion quotes a passage from another New York case, authored by Cardozo, which explains enforcement of a covenant will be allowed unless the owner’s action would be unconscionable or oppressive.