Page County Appliance Center v. Honeywell, 347 N.W.2d 171 (Iowa 1984)

Case Name: Page County Appliance Center, Inc. v. Honeywell, Inc. Plaintiff: Page County Appliance Center, Inc. Defendants: Honeywell, Inc. and ITT Electronic Travel Services, Inc. Citation: 347 N.W.2d 171 (Iowa 1984)   Key Facts: Page County Appliance Center sued for nuisance and tortious interference with business relations. Since 1953, Appliance Center has owned and operated an appliance store. Before 1980, they had no reception trouble with their display televisions. In Jan. 1980, many of the appliance center’s customers complained that their TVs were bad. This was traced back to one of  ITT’s computers because it was leaking radiation. The computer was manufactured, installed, and maintained by Honeywell. Honeywell engineers made many unsuccessful trips to fix the computer. Nuisance is defined as a substantial and unreasonable interference with the use or enjoyment of land. Appliance Center alleged a private nuisance which is “an actionable interference with a person’s interest in the private use and enjoyment of his or her property.” Nuisance per accidens – “in fact” – a lawful activity conducted in such a manner as to be a nuisance. Issue: Whether the defendants are liable for a nuisance claim when they were conducting lawful business activities which caused reception trouble for Appliance Center’s TVs. Procedural History: The plaintiff was awarded compensatory and punitive damages. Appliance Center asked only for injunctive relief but was also awarded $71,000 in compensatory damages and $150,000 in exemplary damages. The trial court awarded ITT full indemnity against Honeywell. Both defendants appeal from the judgment in favor of Appliance Center. In addition, Honeywell appeals from the judgment awarding ITT indemnity. Rule: In reviewing a nuisance claim against a lawful trade or industry, a jury must consider the reasonableness of the defendant conducting the trade or industry in the existing manner and place. The existence of a nuisance is not affected by the intention of its creator not to injure anyone. Judgment: Reversed and remanded for a new trial. New instructions included: 1. Further define the unreasonableness concept 2. Nothing informed the jury that a defendant’s conduct must be a “substantial factor” in bringing about the alleged harm 3. Whether Appliance Center was devoting its premises to an unusually sensitive use...

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Noone v. Price, 298 S.E.2d 218 (W. Va. 1982)

Case Name: Noone v. Price Plaintiffs/Appellants: Mr. and Mrs. William H. Noone Defendant/Appellee: Mrs. Marion T. Price Citation: 298 S.E.2d 218 (W. Va. 1982) Key Facts: Part of the Noones’ house was subsiding. The Noones believed this was caused by Price’s negligence in maintaining her retaining wall. Price’s home was located directly below the Noones at the foot of the hill. Price’s home was built in 1912 and the stone wall was built sometime between 1912 and 1919 while the Noones’ home was built after that in 1928. Price purchased her home in 1955 and the Noones purchased their home in 1960. Price denied that the wall on her property provided support to the slope or that the condition of her wall caused the slipping and damage to the Noones’ property. Issue: Whether the defendant is strictly liable or negligent when the plaintiffs’ home subsided because the defendant did not maintain a retaining wall on her property which was built before the plaintiffs’ home. Procedural History: The circuit court awarded summary judgment to the defendant. General Rule: A landowner is entitled to lateral support in the adjacent land for his soil. Rule: A landowner may be negligent in failing to provide against the risk of harm to his neighbor’s structures even if he does not realize that any harm will occur. Holding: Because the retaining wall was built before the plaintiffs’ home; it is only responsible for supporting the land in its natural condition. Judgment: If the plaintiffs can recover, they must do so by proving that the disrepair of the retaining wall would have led to the subsidence of their land in its natural...

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Friendswood Development Co. v. Smith-Southwest Industries, Inc.

Case Name: Friendswood Development Co. v. Smith-Southwest Industries, Inc. Plaintiff/Appellee:  Smith-Southwest Industries and other landowners Defendants/Appellant: Friendswood Development Company and Exxon Corporation (parent company) Citation: 576 S.W.2d 21 (Tex. 1978)   Key Facts: Smith-Southwest Industries alleged that Friendswood Development Co. pumped large amounts of subsurface waters from its own property which resulted in the subsidence of the plaintiff’s land. They alleged that the wells were negligently spaced too close together and too near the common boundary of lands owned by the plaintiffs and that the defendant produced the wells with knowledge that this could cause subsidence and flooding of the plaintiff’s land. Furthermore, the plaintiffs allege that the defendant’s continued use for the withdrawal and sale of large amounts of fresh water constitutes a continuing nuisance and permanent loss and damage to their property. General Rule: A landowners has a duty not to use his property so as not to injure others. However, this court has held that this general rule does not apply to withdrawals of underground water because that right is absolute and not subject to the “reasonable use” rule. Plaintiffs contend that the “reasonable use” doctrine should apply to ground water the same. Issue: Whether Friendswood Development Co. is liable for nuisance and negligence when it pumped large amounts of subsurface waters from its own property causing subsidence of the plaintiff’s land. Holding: Friendswood Development Co. is not liable for nuisance and negligence (following the English rule and Restatement of Torts). Rule: For future subsidence cases, a landowner who withdraws ground water and is negligent, willfully wasteful, or tries to cause malicious injury, and is the proximate cause of subsidence to other landowners, will be liable for negligence. Judgment: The plaintiffs cannot recover on this future rule because, in property, the parties should be able to rely on the law which existed at the time of their actions Dissenting: Although, according to Texas law, a landowner has an absolute right to pump water; the plaintiffs also have an absolute right to the lateral support for his land. I would hold that an owner of land may assert an action against one who destroys the later of subjacent support to his land when: He engages in conduct knowing that it will cause damages to another’s land by loss or destruction of the subjacent support The plaintiff proves negligence; or The plaintiff proves a nuisance Also, it is...

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Fancher v. Fagella, 650 S.E.2d 519 (Va. 2007)

Case Name: Fancher v. Fagella Plaintiff: Richard Fancher Defendant: Joseph Fagella Citation: 650 S.E.2d 519 (Va. 2007)   Key Facts: Fancher and Fagella are neighbors. The defendant, Fagella, has a large sweet hum tree that has a root system which has damaged and displaced a retaining wall between the neighbors. The root system has also damaged the plaintiff’s patio, blocked his sewer and water pipes, and impaired the foundation of his house. Fancher attempted self-help but the root system continues to grow and worsen the condition of his property. The court determined that it had only reviewed these cases in more rural times and utilized persuasive authority to overrule precedent. Issue: Whether the defendant’s large tree is a noxious nuisance to his neighbor when the tree has imposed actual damage and will continue to impose actual damage. Noxious – hurtful, offensive Rule: Encroaching trees and plants may be regarded as a nuisance when they cause actual harm or pose an imminent danger of actual harm to adjoining property. Judgment: Remanded to consider injunctive relief in the present case....

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Armstrong v. Francis Corp., 120 A.2d 4 (N.J. 1956)

Case Name: Armstrong v. Francis Corp. Plaintiff: Armstrongs and Klemps Defendant: Francis Corp. (Homebuilder) Citation: 120 A.2d 4 (N.J. 1956)   Key Facts: The defendant, Francis Corp., built 186 small homes and 14 houses on a tract of land. Francis Corp. constructed the drainage system which emptied into an iron pipe which was below the level of the natural stream bed. The natural drainage of the plaintiffs’ property was affected by this and ruined their percolating stream. The water became discolored, evil smelling, and no longer had any fish in it. The stream built up silt and muck and started to erode the banks of the plaintiffs land. Procedural History: The lower court stated that the plaintiffs were entitled to relief and that the only sensible and permanent solution is to pipe the rest of the brook at the defendant’s expense. Issue: Whether the damage suffered by the plaintiffs is privileged and incidental by the improvement of the defendant’s land and thereby the plaintiffs are not entitled to relief. Rule: Whether the harm caused by the defendant’s improvement is reasonable can be determined by consideration all of the relevant circumstances such as the amount of harm caused, the foreseeability of the harm, the purpose or motive of the...

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Borough of Glassboro v. Vallorosi, 117 N.J. 421 (1990)

Facts: A Borough of Glassboro ordinance limits residence in certain districts to stable and permanent “single housekeeping units” that constitute either a “traditional family unit” or its functional equivalent. The Borough conceded that the ordinance was to prevent groups of college students from living together. Issue: Whether a group of ten unrelated college students constitute a “family” within the definition of a restrictive zoning ordinance. Procedural History: The Chancery Division concluded that the relationship and living arrangements among Vallorosi and the other college students demonstrated the “generic character” of a family. The Appellate Division affirmed. Holding: Affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Division. Reasoning: Vallorosi and the other students often ate meals together, cooked for each other, and shared the household chores, grocery shopping, and yard work. In addition, a common checking account paid for food and other bills and they shared the use of a telephone. Although Vallorosi and the students are uncertain of living arrangements after graduation, their relationship “shows stability, permanency and can be described as the functional equivalent of a...

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