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Job v Potton (1875) LR 20 Eq 84

Liability for shares of profits of tenants in common under the Statute of Anne.

Facts

Three persons, Mr. Job, Mr. Potton and Mr. Marriot, were tenants in common of a coal mine. Potton and Marriot came to an agreement with the neighbouring coal miner, Mr. Jones, to whom they gave them full powers of working two-thirds of the coal, yet without the knowledge nor consent of the third tenant. Upon discovery of this arrangement, Job claimed trespass, that injury had been done to the surface, and that the acts amounted to destructive waste.

Issue

The question arose as to (1) Mr. Jones was guilty of trespass by extracting the coal, and (2) whether under the Statute of Anne that enables an action of account to be brought by a tenant in common, the two tenants in common were liable to the third for damages and an account of the value of the coal sold.

Held

Firstly, the Court held that Mr. Jones did not commit a tort but merely exercised his legal rights, granted to him by the co-tenants to work in the property, for which he accounted the value of the coal to the co-tenants. Secondly, the Statute of Anne recognises the principle that tenants in common can lawfully exercise their rights to use property, with the only restriction being that each does not appropriate more than his/her respective share in the property. On the facts, the Court held that the co-tenants were merely exercising their rights over their coal mine, placing emphasis on the fact that mining the coal was the sole way in which one enjoys rights in a coal mine. However, the value of raising the coal was undivided and the Court held the co-tenants liable for the value of one-third of the coal raised.


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