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


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)
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:

  1. He engages in conduct knowing that it will cause damages to another’s land by loss or destruction of the subjacent support
  2. The plaintiff proves negligence; or
  3. The plaintiff proves a nuisance

Also, it is unfair to treat the parties unequally by recognizing that they possess an action, but denying them the remedy.

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.