Jim Whitney

Jim Whitney
Economics 495
Case brief
Recorder name:
Case name:
Citation; Date:
Sarah Kushner
Sanborn vs. McLean
233 Mich. 227; 206 N.W. 496; 1925 Mich. LEXIS 747; 60 A.L.R. 1212
December 22, 1925
Supreme Court of Michigan
Name (if specified) and description of litigants at the original trial court level
Jessie L. Sanborn is a member of the Green Lawn subdivision community.
Christina and John A. McLean are owners of lot 86 of the Green Lawn subdivision.
Facts of the case:
Christina and John A. McLean owned a single property on Collingwood Avenue, a residential street in
Detroit, MI. An alley runs behind the McLean’s property, so in 1925, they proposed to open a gasoline
station at the rear of their lot. Members of the community argued that the proposed station would be a
nuisance to the neighborhood. Furthermore, they noted that the McLean’s were subject to a negative
easement, which effectively prevented them from undertaking an activity on their property that might be
perceived as detrimental to the enjoyment of their neighbors.
A total of 91 lots, all of which were planned strictly for residential purposes in 1891, front Collingwood
Avenue. This land, once belonging to a common owner, is bound by a clause specified by the original
owner that restricts non-residential development on the lots fronting Collingwood Avenue. This clause,
however, is not included in the McLean’s own deed and they therefore claim to be unaware of property
Procedural history (remedy sought, prior rulings, grounds for appeal, etc., as available):
The circuit court ruled that the work done on the gas station building should be torn down at the expense
of the McLean’s.
Court opinion (key issues and arguments):
The court notes that the McLean’s property was, in fact, burdened with a reciprocal negative easement.
Although the court recognizes that this clause was not explicitly conveyed to the McLean’s in their specific
title, they argue that the McLean’s should have asked one of their neighbors for clarification regarding
property restrictions. As a result, the court mandates that the work completed on the building be torn down
and that the McLean’s must pay for the associated costs.
Dissenting opinion, if any (key issues and arguments):
Disposition of case:
Affirmed the decree in the circuit court and ruled that the McLean’s were responsible for covering any
associated costs.
1. Course topic of the case:
Exercising property rights
2. How does the case relate to the course topic?
This case illustrates the binding nature of a reciprocal negative easement, which is tied to the land
regardless of the owner having notice of it or not. Thus, in this case, Jessie L. Sanborn exercises her
property rights by bringing this reciprocal negative easement to the attention of the McLean’s.
3. Which previously assigned cases, if any, are related to this case, and how does this one differ?
4. How does the case affect economic incentives and efficiency?
This case helps us understand the economic importance of keeping residential areas residential.
Namely, it raises property values.