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Henderson v Eason (1851) 17 QB 701

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

Facts

A farmland was jointly owned by two persons as tenants in common. One co-owner, the tenant in occupation, cultivated the land profited from the produce. The other co-owner, the tenant not in occupation, claimed entitlement to recover the profits from the produce of the land in equal shares by virtue of his co-ownership.

Issue

The question arose as to a co-owner of the land is entitled to recover a share of profits derived from another co-owner’s cultivation and sale of produce of the land, specifically under an interpretation of the Statute of Anne 1710.

Held

Firstly, the Court held that lawful use of property does not render a co-owner liable to another co-owner, as “the one who chooses to occupy cannot compel the other to do so, neither can the other compel him to render an account in respect of his occupation” (715). On the facts, the co-owner was merely lawfully taking benefit of the jointly-owned property in which he is a tenant in common. Secondly, the Court held that the Statute of Anne enables a co-tenant to claim action for the profits received by virtue of being tenant in common of the land, and does not render an occupying tenant liable for the profits produced by his own labour and skill. Thus, the ownership of the land alone does entitle a co-owner to recover a share of profits as he/she did not contribute to the capital and labour in the cultivation of the land, nor would bear the risks associated with any respective losses. Thus, on the facts, the co-owner was not liable to the other co-owner for profit derived, nor risks borne, from his cultivation of the farmland. 


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