Parker v. Foote

19 Wend. 309 (1838)

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Parker v. Foote

New York Supreme Court
19 Wend. 309 (1838)

JC

Facts

Foote (defendant) owned a pair of lots in the village of Clinton, New York. Foote sold one of the lots in 1808 to Joseph Stebbins, who built a dwelling house with windows overlooking the other lot. In 1832, Foote built a store in the alley between the two lots, which filled up the space between the houses and blocked the natural light from Stebbins’s house. Stebbins sold the property to Parker (plaintiff), who filed suit on the basis of blocking the light in a dwelling house, a notion that resided in English common law. The path of the suit essentially evolved into a primitive form of adverse possession, that of presuming a grant. In the absence of any express contractual right to not have the light blocked, Stebbins argued that a claim of right to the unblocked light having been asserted by Stebbins for 20 years, Stebbins was entitled to presume that he had been given such a right. The judge at trial expressed his doubt that the English law regarding stopping the light was valid in a bustling New York village. The judge also declined to instruct the jury as to the issues regarding presumption of a grant and instructed the jury to find for Parker, which the jury did, awarding Parker damages of $225. Foote then appealed, arguing that no one owned the right to unblocked light, so that presumption of that right was irrelevant and that stopping the light was irrelevant in the context of Clinton, New York. Proof had been made that the free window with light had been allowed to Stebbins as a favor, not as a claim of right.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Bronson, J.)

Concurrence (Cowen, J.)

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