Keeble v. Hickeringill

FACTS:

Circa November 8th, in the 2nd year of the Queen, the plaintiff, Keeble, lawfully possessed a close of land, deemed Minott’s Meadow, which enclosed a decoy pond (used for entrapping wildfowl). Keeble used his own resources to prepare divers decoy ducks, nets, machines, and other engines so that he might capture wildfowl for his own enjoyment and use. The defendant, Hickeringill, circa the 8th, 11th, and 12th of November, travelled to the aforementioned pond and began to fire gunshots with an array of guns. The defendant acted in this way to frighten the wildfowl residing on and/or near the plaintiff’s pond. Accordingly, the plaintiff brings an action against the defendant, seeking to recover damages for the hinderance. 

PROCEDURAL HISTORY:

This case was previously heard by two lower courts (3 Salk. 9 & 11 Mod. 74, 130). The first court found the defendant, Hickeringill, liable to the plaintiff, Keeble, for damages arising from his interference. Hickeringill then appealed the judgment to the following court, the King’s Bench, attempting to absolve himself of liability by claiming that the plaintiff, Keeble, did not have possession of the wildfowl.

ISSUE:

What is the remedy for a party that interferes with or hinders the right of a property owner to lawfully use his/her art or skill to profit from his/her property?

RULE:

The lawful owner of any property holds the right to lawfully utilize his/her property for profit is his/her trade or livelihood without hinderance or interference from another party.

ANALYSIS:

C.J. Holt initially contends (1) the plaintiff lawfully made & used the decoy, and (2) such a use of the land/pond, combined with the skill and management of the trade, was profitable to the plaintiff. Furthermore, Holt compares the plaintiff’s seduction of wildfowl to that of keeping and killing cattle for profit. Hindering one from profiting from such a trade would prove detrimental to both the afflicted’s livelihood and the business in general. In other words, Holt declares that an action must lie in all cases of a malicious or violent act done to person’s occupation. No action would result, however, if the defendant simply placed his own decoy on his own, nearby land. Moreover, Holt compares this case to the matter of 11 H. 4, 47, in which no action lies if a schoolmaster constructs a new school to the damage of a nearby existing school. Action would result if the competing schoolmaster chose to enter the other school and fire off several gunshots so that he may divert students from attending that school. On another note, Holt then cites 29 E. 3, 18, in which a merchant successfully brought action against a stranger who hindered and obstructed him from bringing his horse to a market to sell. Ultimately, Holt concludes that people should be free to reap the benefits of their skill and industry by claiming their action against those who unlawfully disturb their trade.

CONCLUSION:

The court found the defendant, Hickeringill, liable to the plaintiff, Keeble, for damages resulting from his interference with Keeble’s business. Action sustained.

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