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One of the old Forms of Action for recovery of the possession of real property.
Originally the ownership of land in England could be passed to another only by delivering the actual possession of the land. The present owner passed title to another by picking up a clod of dirt on the land and handing it to the other person in front of others from the community. This ceremonial act from ancient times was called Livery of Seisin, or delivery of possession. Instead of a clod, a twig or a key could be handed over as a symbol of ownership, but only later was it permissible to deliver the symbol of ownership anywhere but on the land itself. As time passed and writing became more common, a written deed could symbolize the delivery of ownership. The purpose of the ceremony was to make the acquiring of land a public act generally known in the community, so that disputes were less likely to arise.
Everyone in old England was tied to the land. The feudal land tenement system determined social, economic, political, and legal rights. The stability of the system was founded on the security of each person's right to possess or own a parcel of land. For this reason the first kinds of lawsuits were those allowing the assertion of rights in land. By the end of the thirteenth century, the action of Trespass was allowed against one who intruded on property possessed by the plaintiff. The action of ejectment branched off from this as another action for the relief of one whose possession had been disturbed. By it, the plaintiff might claim that he or she had been in possession of a certain parcel of land and that the land had been taken by the defendant. The plaintiff could do this by obtaining from the clerk of the court a writ of entry—a command from the king telling the defendant to let the plaintiff go back on the land taken by the defendant or to appear in court to answer the charge. The defendant could then appear and deny that the plaintiff had been dispossessed or show that as the defendant, he or she had a prior and better right to hold the land. A trial was held to settle the issue. If it were found that the defendant had wrongfully withheld possession of the property from the plaintiff, he or she could be made to pay an amercement, or fine. This fine became a precedent for the later practice of awarding money damages to the successful plaintiff in addition to restoring possession of the land.
Originally, the action of ejectment was intended to protect the rights of a tenant who leased the land. Ultimately, it came to be the principal method for determining the ownership of real property. When the question of title to land became the issue, it was essential to describe the property as carefully as it would be described in a deed to a purchaser. This led to enforcement of very strict technicalities by the court, and the action of ejectment became less attractive to plaintiffs because of the chance that the case would be lost on a point of procedure. The old action of ejectment does not exist today, but every state has a statute that outlines a modern procedure for recovering the possession of real property. Modern ejectment actions still are somewhat slow and expensive. They are most often used by landlords trying to recover possession of their premises from stubborn tenants. States generally have another law that permits the efficient ousting of a tenant by summary proceedings, but a landlord can pursue the simpler procedure only when the tenant has broken the lease in certain specified ways. The details of ejectment and summary proceedings to dispossess vary greatly from state to state.
n. a lawsuit brought to remove a party who is occupying real property. This is not the same as an unlawful detainer (eviction) suit against a non-paying or unsatisfactory tenant. It is against someone who has tried to claim title to the property. Example: George Grabby lives on a ranch which he claims he has inherited from his great uncle, but Betty Benefield sues for ejectment on the basis that, in fact, she was entitled to the property through her parents.
EJECTMENT, remedies. The name of an action which lies for the recovery of
the possession of real property, and of damages for the unlawful detention.
In its nature it is entirely different from a real action. 2 Term Rep; 696,
700. See 17 S. & R. 187, and, authorities cited.
2. This subject may be considered with reference, 1st. To the form of the, proceedings. 2d. To the nature of the property or thing to be recovered. 3d. To the right to such property. 4th. To the nature of the ouster or injury. 5th. To the judgment.
3.-1. In the English practice, which is still adhered to in some states, in order to lay the foundation of this action, the party claiming title enters upon the land, and then gives a lease of it to a third person, who, being ejected by the other claimant, or some one else for him, brings a suit against, the ejector in his own name; to sustain the action the lessee must prove a good title in the lessor, and, in this collateral way, the title is tried. To obviate the difficulty of proving these forms, this action has been made, substantially, a fictitious process. The defendant agrees, and is required to confess that a lease was made to the plaintiff, that he entered under it, and has been ousted by the defendant, or, in other words, to admit lease, entry, and ouster, and that he will rely only upon his title. An actual entry, however, is still supposed, and therefore, an ejectment will not lie, if the right of entry is gone. 3 Bl. Com. 199 to 206. In Pennsylvania, New York, Arkansas, and perhaps other states, these fictions have all been abolished, and the writ of ejectment sets forth the possession of the plaintiff, and an unlawful entry on the part of the defendant.
4.-2. This action is in general sustainable only for the recovery of the possession of property upon which an entry might in point of fact be made, and of which the sheriff could deliver actual possession: it cannot, therefore, in general, be sustained for the recovery of property which, in legal consideration, is not tangible; as, for a rent, or other incorporeal hereditaments, a water-course, or for a mere privilege of a landing held in common with other citizens of a town. 2 Yeates, 331; 3 Bl. Com. 206; Yelv. 143; Run. Eject. 121 to 136 Ad. Eject. c. 2; 9 John. 298; 16 John. 284.
5.-3. The title of the party having a right of entry maybe in fee- simple, fee-tail, or for life or years; and if it be the best title to the property the plaintiff will succeed. The plaintiff must recover on the strength. of his title, and not on the weakness or deficiency of that of the defendant. Addis. Rep. 390; 2 Serg. & Rawle, 65; 3 Serg. & Rawle, 288; 4 Burr. 2487; 1 East, R. 246; Run. Eject. 15; 5 T. R. 110.
6.-4. The injury sustained must in fact or in point of law have amounted to an ouster or dispossession of the lessor of the plaintiff, or of the plaintiff himself, where the fictions have been abolished; for if there be no ouster, or the defendant be not in possession at the time of bringing the action, the plaintiff must fail. 7 T. R. 327; 1 B. & P. 573; 2 Caines' R. 335.
7.-5. The judgment is that the plaintiff do recover his term, of and in the tenements, and, unless the damages be remitted, the damages assessed by the jury with the costs of increase. In Pennsylvania, however, and, it is presumable, in all those states where the fictitious form of this action has been abolished, the plaintiff recovers possession of the land generally, and not simply a term of years in the land. See 2 Seam. 251; 4 B. Monr. 210; 3 Harr. 73; 1 McLean, 87. Vide, generally, Adams on Ej.; 4 Bouv. Inst. n., 3651, et seq.; Run. Ej.; Com. Dig. h.t.; Dane's Ab. h.t.; 1 Chit. Pl. 188 to 193; 18 E. C. L. R. 158; Woodf. L. & T. 354 to 417; 2 Phil. Ev. 169.; 8 Vin. Ab. 323; Arch. Civ. Pl. 503; 2 Sell. Pr. 85; Chit. Pr. Index, h.t.; Bac. Ab. h. t Doct. Pl. 227; Am. Dig. h.t.; Report of the Commissioners to Revise the Civil Code of Pennsylvania, January 16, 1835, pp. 80, 81, 83; Coop. Justinian, 448.