Injunction granted without balancing interests against owner who deliberately violated a covenant

Posted on July 7th, 2013 by Joseph William Singer.
Categories: Servitudes.

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has held that an injunction can be granted to stop an owner from deliberately and knowingly violating a restrictive covenant. The traditional balancing of interests used to determine whether an injunction is appropriate need not be done when violation of a covenant is not inadvertent or unknowing. Cullen v. Tarini, 15 A.2d 968 (R.I. 2011). The court found that defendant knowingly violated a covenant that protected plaintiff’s view of the ocean. In such a case, plaintiff was entitled to an injunction to remove the offending structure despite the fact that defendant had already invested $1 million in the project.

In effect, the court treated servitudes as important property rights owned by the servitude beneficiary and found they cannot be violated simply by paying damages. The beneficiary has a right to enforcement without any need to show that the benefits of enforcement outweigh the costs. The court limited the relative hardship doctrine that balances the equities between the parties to situations where an innocent party proceeds without knowledge or notice that he is encroaching on another’s rights.

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