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Fontainebleau Hotel Corp. v. Forty-Five Twenty-Five, Inc

    Brief Fact Summary. Fontainebleau Hotel Corp. (Defendant) maliciously began to build an addition to his hotel, which blocked the air and light to Plaintiff’s neighboring hotel.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. There is no common law easement for air-flow or light

    Facts. Defendant was in the process of building a fourteen-story addition to their hotel, which was being constructed twenty feet from its northern property line. During the winter months, from two in the afternoon until the end of the day, the shadow of Defendant’s addition will extend over the cabana, swimming pool, and sunbathing areas of Eden Roc, which is located on the southern portion of Plaintiff’s property. Plaintiff filed suit when the addition was eight stories high. Plaintiff contended that the shadow, which would be cast by the addition would render Plaintiff’s beach wholly unfit for the use and enjoyment of its guests. Plaintiff also contends that Defendant’s intention to build the addition on the north side of their property was motivated in part by malice and ill will. Construction on the south side of Defendant’s property would not have caused the same problems. Plaintiff alleged that the construction would interfere with the easements of light and air enjoyed by Pla
    intiff, and that Plaintiff had an easement by implication. Defendant denied the material allegations, pleading laches and estoppel by judgment. Plaintiff received a temporary injunction. It is clear that the addition to Defendant’s property will damage Plaintiff. Defendant appealed.

    Issue. Does Plaintiff have a legal right to the flow of light and air across the adjoining land of a neighbor?

    Held. No. Judgment reversed.
    * One must not use his property to injure the lawful rights of another.
    * No decision has been cited, which provides for a legal right to the free flow of light and air across the adjoining land of a neighbor, in the absence of some contractual or statutory obligation. Under the common law, there was no such right in the absence of an easement.
    * In the absence of an easement, no such rights exist. Because there is no legal right to the free flow of light and air from the adjoining land, it is universally held that when 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 even though it causes injury to another, and that injury was created from malice and ill will.

    Discussion. This type of situation is one best left to the legislature. There is no common law easement for light or air, but the legislature has imposed height restrictions. Height restrictions raise takings and just compensation issues.



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