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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