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Hodge et al. v. Sloan

Court of Appeals of the State of New York
Oct 28, 1887
107 N.Y. 244 (N.Y. 1887)


upholding an agreement not to sell sand as the covenant was "not larger than is necessary"

Summary of this case from Crye Precision LLC v. Duro Textiles, LLC


Argued July 1, 1887

Decided October 28, 1887

D.S. Morrel for appellants. H.L. Huston for respondent.

The conclusion of the trial court is against our ideas of natural justice, for it takes from one party an advantage which he refused to sell, and secures to the other without price a privilege which his grantor was unable to buy. Nor do we find that this denial of private right is required by any rule of public policy. Assuming with the respondent that the covenant is in restraint of trade, it is still valid if it imposes no restriction upon one party which is not beneficial to the other, and was induced by a consideration which made it reasonable for the parties to enter into it, or in other words, if it was a proper and useful contract, or such as could not be disregarded without injury to a fair contractor. This is the doctrine of Chappel v. Brockway (21 Wend. 157), and Ross v. Sadgbeer (id. 166), derived by a learned court from the leading case of Mitchel v. Reynolds (1 P. Wms. 181), and an examination of subsequent decisions. It is also so amplified and discussed in a case just decided by this court ( Diamond Match Co. v. Roeber), opinion by ANDREWS, J. ( 106 N.Y. 473), as to make any elaboration of the general rule quite superfluous.

The subject of the contract at the bottom of this controversy was a piece of land which Sloan wanted to buy and which the plaintiff was willing to sell provided it should not be made an instrument for the destruction of his means of livelihood or detrimental to his business. The principle which favors freedom of trade requires that every man shall be at liberty to work for himself, and shall not deprive himself or the State of the benefit of his industry by any contract that he enters into. The same principle must justify a party in withholding from market the tools, or instruments, or means by which he gains the support of his family, or if, as in the case before us, the instrument or means are susceptible of several uses, one of which will work mischief to himself by the loss or impairment of his livelihood, there is no reason of public policy which requires him upon a sale of the instrument to consent to that use, or prohibits him from binding his vendee against it.

We see nothing unreasonable in the restriction which the grantee imposed upon himself. He was not a dealer in sand. He wanted to buy the land on the best terms and in the most advantageous way, and in order to do this it was necessary that he should preclude himself from so using it as that by its means he should enter into competition with the vendor. I cannot find that such a covenant contravenes any rule of public policy, nor that it is incapable of being enforced in a court of equity. It stands upon a good consideration, and is not larger than is necessary for the protection of the covenantee in the enjoyment of his business.

But the question presented is, upon the conceded facts, really one of individual right with which the question of public policy has little if anything to do.

Parties competent to contract have contracted, the one to sell a portion of his land, but only upon such conditions as will protect himself in the prosecution of business carried on upon the residue, the other agreeing to buy for a consideration affected by that condition, and enabled to do so only by acceding to it, and he therefore binds himself by contract to limit the use of the land purchased in a particular manner. There seems no reason why he and his grantee, taking title with notice of the restriction, should not be equally bound. The contract was good between the original parties, and it should in equity at least bind whoever takes title with notice of such covenant. By reason of it the vendor received less for his land, and the plain and expressed intention of the parties would be defeated if the covenant could not be enforced as well against a purchaser with notice, as against the original covenantor. In order to uphold the liability of the successor in title, it is not necessary that the covenant should be one technically attaching to and concerning the land and so running with the title. It is enough that a purchaser has notice of it. The question in equity being, as is said in Tulk v. Moxhay (11 Beav. 571; 2 Phillips, 774), not whether the covenant ran with the land, but whether a party shall be permitted to use the land inconsistently with the contract entered into by his vendor, and with notice of which he purchased. This principle was applied in Tallmadge v. East River Bank ( 26 N.Y. 105), where the equity in regard to the manner of improvement and occupation of certain land grew out of a parol contract made by the owner with the purchaser, and was held binding upon a subsequent purchaser with notice, although his legal title was absolute and unrestricted.

In Trustees v. Lynch ( 70 N.Y. 440), the action was brought to restrain the carrying on of business on certain premises in the city of New York, of which the defendant was owner, upon the ground that the premises were subject to a covenant reserving the property exclusively for dwelling-houses. The court below held, among other things, that the covenant did not run with the land, and that the restriction against carrying on any business on the premises was liable to conflict with the public welfare, and judgment was given for the defendant. Upon appeal it was reversed, the covenant held to be binding upon a subsequent grantee with notice as well upon the original covenantor. So the restraint may be against the use of the premises for one or another particular purpose, as that no building thereon "shall be used for the sale of ale, beer, spirits," etc., "or as an inn, public house or beer house." ( Carter v. Williams, L.R., 9 Eq. Cas. 678.) And it is said a man may covenant not to erect a mill on his own lands. ( Mitchel v. Reynolds, supra.)

Many other instances of restraint might be referred to, and where it is of such nature as concerns the mode of occupying or dealing with the property purchased in the way of business operations, or even the omission of all business or certain kinds of business, or the erection or non-erection of buildings upon the property, we see no reason to doubt the validity of an agreement fair and valid in other respects, which secures that restraint. Indeed, it seems well settled by authority that a personal obligation so insisted upon by a grantor and assumed by a grantee, which is a restriction as to the use of the land, may be enforced in equity against the grantee and subsequent purchasers with notice. ( Parker v. Nightingale, 6 Allen, 341, 344; Burbank v. Pillsbury, 48 N.H. 475.) Nor is it essential that the assignees of the covenantor should be named or referred to. ( Morland v. Cook, L.R., 6 Eq. Cases, 252.) In Tulk v. Moxhay (1 Hall Quell's Ch. Rep. 105), it was said that the jurisdiction of the court in such cases is not fettered by the question whether the covenant does or does not run with the land. In that case the purchaser of land which was conveyed to him in fee simple, covenanted with the vendor that the land should be used and kept in ornamental repair as a pleasure garden, and it was held that the vendor was entitled to an injunction against the assignee of the purchaser to restrain them from building upon the land. Upon the appeal the chancellor (COTTENHAM) said: "I have no doubt whatever upon the subject; in short, I cannot have a doubt upon it, without impeaching what I have considered as the settled rule of this court ever since I have known it. Where the owner of a piece of land enters into contract with his neighbor, founded, of course, upon a valuable or other good consideration, that he will either use or abstain from using his land in such a manner as the other party by the contract particularly specifies, it appears to me the very foundation of the whole of his jurisdiction, to maintain that this court has authority to enforce such a contract. It has never, that I know of, been disputed." The question before the court was stated to be whether a party taking property with a stipulation to use it in a particular manner, will be permitted by the court to use it in a way diametrically opposite to that which the party has stipulated for. * * * "Of course," he says, "of course the party purchasing the property which is under such restriction, gives less for it than he would have given if he had bought it unincumbered. Can there, then, be anything much more inequitable or contrary to good conscience, than that a party who takes property at a less price because it is subject to a restriction, should receive the full value from a third party, and that such third party should then hold it unfettered by the restriction under which it was granted? That would be most inequitable, most unjust and most unconscientious; and, as far as I am informed, this court never would sanction any such course of proceeding." And in language very applicable to the case before us he adds: "Without adverting to any question about a covenant running with land or not, I consider that this piece of land is purchased subject to an equity created by a party competent to create it; that the present defendant took it with distinct knowledge of such equity existing; and that such equity ought to be enforced against him, as it would have been against the party who originally took the land from Mr. Tulk." This case is cited and followed as to restrictive covenants in many cases. ( Brown v. Great East. R. Co., L.R. 2 Q.B. Div. 406; London, etc., Ry. Co. v. Comm., L.R. 20 Ch. Div. 562, 576.) Each case will depend upon its own circumstances, and the jurisdiction of a court of equity may be exercised for their enforcement, or refused, according to its discretion ( Trustees, etc., v. Thacher, 87 N.Y. 311); but where the agreement is a just and honest one, its judgment should not be in favor of the wrong-doer. Such seems to us the character of the covenant in question; it is restrictive, not collateral to the land, but relates to its use, and upon the facts found the plaintiff is entitled to the equitable relief demanded.

Brewer v. Marshall, (4 C.E. Green [N.J. Eq.], 537), is cited by the respondent as requiring a different construction. The general rules in regard to such covenants are not stated differently in that case. But in the opinion of the court it was not one for the interference of a court of equity. Among many other cases Tulk v. Moxhay ( supra) is cited, and the learned court say: "It will be found upon examination that these decisions proceed upon the principle of preventing a party having knowledge of the just rights of another, from defeating such rights, and not upon the idea that the engagements enforced create easements or are of a nature to run with the land. In some of the instances the language of the court is very clear on this point," and from a "review of the authorities" the court say "it is entirely satisfied that a court of equity will sometimes impose the burthen of a covenant relating to lands on the alienee of such lands, on a principle altogether aside from the existence of an easement or the capacity of such covenant to adhere to the title." The only question which the court regarded as possessed of difficulty was whether the covenant then in controversy was embraced within the proper limits of this branch of equitable jurisdiction. By a divided court an injunction was denied. The circumstances were quite unlike those before us and the decision furnishes no precedent for us to follow.

The judgment appealed from should be reversed and new trial granted, with costs to abide the event.

All concur except PECKHAM, J., not voting, and ANDREWS and EARL, JJ., dissenting because, in their opinion, the covenant was a personal one and did not bind the grantee of the land.

Judgment reversed.

Summaries of

Hodge et al. v. Sloan

Court of Appeals of the State of New York
Oct 28, 1887
107 N.Y. 244 (N.Y. 1887)

upholding an agreement not to sell sand as the covenant was "not larger than is necessary"

Summary of this case from Crye Precision LLC v. Duro Textiles, LLC

nothing in public policy prevents seller from binding buyer of land to restriction of use that was intended to ensure sale would not be "detrimental to [the seller's] business"

Summary of this case from Costco Wholesale Corp. v. Gap Partners IV, LLC

In Hodge, the New York Court of Appeals upheld an agreement by a buyer of land not to sell sand therefrom in competition with the seller.

Summary of this case from KW Plastics v. United States Can Co.

In Hodge v. Sloan (1887), 107 N.Y. 244 (17 N.E. 335), a grantee bound himself by a covenant in his deed to limit the use of land purchased so as not to interfere with the trade or business of the grantor and the property was subsequently sold to defendant without covenant on his part but with notice of the covenant in the deed to his grantor.

Summary of this case from Sun Oil Co. v. Trent Auto Wash

In Hodge v. Sloan, 107 N.Y. 244, 17 N.E. 335, 1 Am. St. 816, the plaintiff's predecessor in title, Null, was the owner in fee of forty acres of land containing deposits of building sand. He had opened these deposits and was engaged in the business of selling the sand.

Summary of this case from Messett v. Cowell

In Hodge v. Sloan (107 N.Y. 250), we substantially affirmed that doctrine, holding that a purchaser without restriction in his deed, but from one who was restricted by a personal covenant, not running with the land or binding his assigns, yet with notice of the facts, is bound by the restriction in a court of equity.

Summary of this case from Lewis v. Gollner
Case details for

Hodge et al. v. Sloan

Case Details

Full title:AUGUSTUS M. HODGE, Executor, etc., et al., Appellants, v . RICHARD SLOAN…

Court:Court of Appeals of the State of New York

Date published: Oct 28, 1887


107 N.Y. 244 (N.Y. 1887)
11 N.Y. St. Rptr. 770
17 N.E. 835

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