Pursuer Joseph Hately was an engineer who specialized in coal mining. In May 1770 Hately obtained a tack (lease) of coal in the lands of Hutchison near Glasgow. Defender Colin Dunlop was a merchant in Glasgow who also worked in the coal trade. Hately accused Dunlop and his business partner Alexander Houston of trying to monopolize the Glaswegian coal trade. Hately was able to sell his coal at a lower price than Dunlop and Houston, who owned adjoining coal property in the lands of Carmyle. Dunlop accused Hately of encroaching upon his lands, petitioned the local sheriff of Lanark to allow three of his servants to inspect Hately's mines. Hately maintained that he did not encroached on Dunlop's property and only wanted to protect his interest in the coal-trade. Hately then sought the appointment of a land-surveyor, who was not a coallier or connected with the coal trade, to evaluate the land.