Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Mesne Profits Definition:

Profits from land while it has been improperly held; damages for trespass.

Related Terms: Trespass, Landlord, Damages, Ejectment, Detinue

In Mozley and Whiteley's Law Dictionary, the authors define mesne profits as:

"Mesne profits are profits of land taken by a tenant in wrongful possession from the time that the wrongful possession commenced to the time of the trial of an action of ejectment brought against him."

Justice Low of the British Columbia Court of Appeal adopted these words. in Fuoco Estate v. Kamloops, at ¶19:

"Mesne profits are defined as profits derived from land whilst the possession of it has been improperly withheld: that is, the yearly value of the premises."

In Bramwell v Bramwell, Justice Goddard wrote:

"... mesne profits is only another term for damages for trespass, damages which arise from the particular relationship of landlord and tenant."

Similarly, in an Australian case, Williams & Bradley v Tobiasen, Justice Mayo used these words:

"Mesne profits are the pecuniary benefits deemed to be lost to the person entitled to possession of land, or to rents and profits, by reason of his being wrongly excluded therefrom.

"The wrongful occupant is a trespasser, and the remedy rests on that fact. It may be a claim for mesne profits implies a waiver of the trespass, the claimant seeking to recover for use and occupation. The action is based on the claimant's possession, or right to possession, which has been interfered with."

In Dumas v Ropp, this definition was adopted by Justice McFadden of the Supreme Court of Idaho:

"The term, mesne profits means intermediate profits: that is, profits which have been accruing between two given periods.

"Mesne profits is most often defined as the value of the use or occupation of the land during the time it was held by one in wrongful possession and is commonly measured in terms of rents and profits.....

"An action for mesne profits is closely tied to an action in ejectment. As such, it must necessarily be available as a remedy only where there has been an ouster or dispossession of the plaintiff, as this is a prerequisite to an action in ejectment."

A longer but useful description of mesne profits can be found in Halsburys Laws of England, this from the 3rd Edition (see also 4th Edition, volume 27(1), ¶286), which refers to the legal action of the same name (an action for mesne profits): an action by a land owner against another who is trespassing on the owner's lands and who has deprived the owner of income that otherwise may have been obtained from the use of the land:

Mesne profits. The landlord may recover in an action for mesne profits the damages which he has suffered through being out of possession of the land.

"Mesne profits being damages for trespass con only be claimed from the date when the defendant ceased to hold the premises as a tenant and became a trespasser.

"The action for mesne profits does not lie unless either the landlord has recovered possession, or the tenant’s interest in the land has come to an end, or his claim is joined with a claim for possession. The landlord is not limited to a claim for the profits which the defendant has received from the land, or those which he himself has lost; he may recover all the loss which has resulted from the dispossession."

Halsburys, op. cit, 4th, above, suggests that where mesne profits are awarded they usually follow the previous rent rate and in the absence of that, a fair market value rent.


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