Typical Common Law Claims: Nuisance

Michael Goldman
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An accomplished litigator representing his clients in complex environmental disputes throughout the country.

 

Nuisance is asserted in almost all environmental lawsuits.  The Texas Supreme Court recently made some significant changes to how nuisance law is applied in Texas.[1]

In Crosstex North Texas Pipeline, LP v. Gardiner, the Texas Supreme Court stated that the law of “nuisance” seeks to balance a property owner’s right to use his property “as he chooses in any lawful way” against his duty not to use it in a way that “injure[s] another.”[2] According to the court, while the objective may seem simple enough, the “application of these principles gives rise to some of the most difficult questions and delicate distinctions known to the law.”[3] 

If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail

above everyone else’s success.”  James Cameron

A plaintiff can allege that defendants’ activities resulted in either a private or public nuisance.  As described below, a private nuisance is often described as a nontrespassory invasion of another’s interest in the private use and enjoyment of their land.  For instance, in Harris v. Devon Energy Production Company, L.P., the plaintiffs claimed that the defendant’s drilling-related activities created a private nuisance on the plaintiffs’ property.[4]

The plaintiffs claimed that the acts and omissions of the defendant resulted in the contamination of the groundwater under plaintiffs’ land which substantially interfered with plaintiffs’ use and enjoyment of their groundwater for drinking, bathing, and washing. They also claimed that the contaminated well water offended plaintiffs’ senses and made the enjoyment of their property uncomfortable and inconvenient.

In contrast, a public nuisance is a condition that amounts to an unreasonable interference with a right common to the general public. 

For example, in Hearn, et al. v. BHP Billiton Petroleum, (Arkansas) Inc., et al., the plaintiffs asserted a public nuisance claim on the basis that defendants’ conduct constituted a substantial and unreasonable interference with the rights common to the general public.[5]  The plaintiffs claimed that this unreasonable interference arose from defendants’ drilling operations which led to recent seismic activity in Arkansas.

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[1] Crosstex North Texas Pipeline, LP v. Gardiner, 2016 WL 3483165 (Tex. June 24, 2016).

[2] Id. at *4 (citing Gulf, Colo. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. Oakes, 94 Tex. 155, 58 S.W. 999, 1000 (1900)).

[3] Id.

[4] Harris v. Devon Energy Production Company, L.P., No. 4:10-cv-00708 (E.D. Tex., Dec. 15, 2010) (Doc. 1, page 4).

[5] Hearn, et al. v. BHP Billiton Petroleum, (Arkansas) Inc., et al., No. 4:11-cv-0474 (E.D. Ark., May 24, 2011) (Doc. No. 2, page 10).

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