Subjacent support means the support of the surface by the underlying strata of the earth. It is also defined as the right of the land to be supported by the land which lies under it. An adjoining landowner is owed subjacent support[i]. Therefore, a party who removes the subjacent support is absolutely liable for damages caused by subsidence[ii]. According to American rule, the surface owner’s right to obstruct, divert or remove the percolating waters under the surface of his/her land is to be exercised in such a way that will not unreasonably injure a similar right by the owner of neighboring land[iii].
The right to subjacent support is not altered by the use to which the surface owner puts his/her land or whom s/he allows upon it[iv]. Likewise, a subjacent owner is bound to support buildings and other structures which were in existence at the time of the creation of the interest in the subjacent stratum[v]. A person who withdraws the naturally necessary subjacent support of land in another’s possession or the support that substitutes the naturally necessary support will be liable for a subsidence of the land to the other that was dependent upon the support withdrawn.
In Collins v. Gleason Coal Co[vi], the plaintiff was the owner of the surface of the land and the defendant was the owner of the coal beneath the same land. The plaintiff avers his occupancy of the land for farming purposes, and had valuable improvements thereon consisting of a house, outbuildings, and trees. Defendant conducted mining and it caused injuries to the surface land of plaintiff. According to plaintiff, it was the duty and obligation of the defendant to conduct operations in such a manner that does not injure the surface of the land. The defendant pleaded that the mining was not done negligently, but in the most approved and careful manner.
Court observed that the plaintiff was entitled to the use and benefit of the land, and the defendant was entitled of the coal beneath it. However, both plaintiff and defendant do not have the right to interfere or deprive the rights, benefits, profits, and enjoyment of other’s property.
[i] Cecola v. Ruley, 12 S.W.3d 848 (Tex. App. Texarkana 2000)
[ii] Platts v. Sacramento N. Ry., 205 Cal. App. 3d 1025 (Cal. App. 1st Dist. 1988)
[iii] Finley v. Teeter Stone, Inc, 251 Md. 428 (Md. 1968)
[iv] Platts v. Sacramento N. Ry., 205 Cal. App. 3d 1025 (Cal. App. 1st Dist. 1988)
[v] Western Indiana Coal Co. v. Brown, 36 Ind. App. 44 (Ind. Ct. App. 1905)
[vi] 140 Iowa 114 (Iowa 1908)