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Writing Assignment #1: Edwards v. Sims
In the case of Edwards v. Sims, property rights come into question on where the line is drawn. A cave is located under both Edward’s property and Lee’s property, but the only entrance to the cave is on Edward’s property. When Edward’s remodels the cave and begins charging people money to tour it, Lee feels he should be included in the profits. The court grants Sims (the surveyor) the right to survey the cave to find out if the cave does indeed encroach on Lee’s property, and Edward’s argues that the survey will look bad to tourists and cause him economic damage. So, whose cave is it?
First of all, when a property is bought, the buyer is entitled to the airspace above it and the soil beneath it, but it’s not an absolute right and courts can find exceptions. In this case, it does appear that the case could be settled without the two parties continuing to pursue legal action against the other, and a survey of the cave completed to determine if it extends under Lee's property. Whatever the survey findings, it would appear that Edwards would have the upper hand because Lee has no entrance to the cave underground and therefore is unable to charge people to tour that part of his "property". In addition, Lee is not making additional money by people looking around the entire cave and being underground, it is certainly not disruptive to Lee in any way. Lee would appear to have more legal rights if Edwards was finding gold or something of value on Lee's underground property. That way, Lee could probably prove that he owned everything beneath the soil of his property.
I don't think the Coase theorem applies in this dispute because while it is a good way to solve externality problems, there are three conditions to be satisfied: 1) property ownership is clearly defined, 2) small number of people are involved, and 3) their bargaining costs are negligible. In the matter between Edwards and Lee, property ownership in undefined, there...