The law contains many Latin maxims. One of the interesting concepts that has not survived the reality of modern day living is “cuis est solum eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos”. The meaning of which is “he who owns land, owns it from the heavens to the centre of the earth”.
This meant ownership extends from the surface of your house block extending infinitely and downwards to the earth’s centre.
The maxim is used in deciding trespass cases. In 1927, a bullet passing across a neighbours land constituted a trespass. In more recent years, a crane jib extending over a neighbouring block has been decided to be a trespass. Power lines are a trespass, as are advertising signs but the interesting question of the height of your ownership toward the clouds was decided in 1978, where an aircrafts flight path which was hundreds of feet above the ground did not constitute a trespass. More recent cases have suggested that ownership is unlikely to extend past 200 meters above ground level.
Of course there is now legislation that says a reasonable flight path of an aircraft cannot constitute trespass. The question of an overhanging crane performing construction work next door has also seen legislation intervene with an easement granted until work is complete.
The original maxim has no place in modern law, even being described as an “unfortunate scrap of Latin” and realistically, there is not a great deal of benefit in having Qantas charged with trespass. But what about the earth below, with the possibility of valuable minerals and fortunes to be made? We’ll discuss this next week.
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This is intended for general information and does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Formal legal advice should be sought.