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Halsey v Esso [1961] 1 WLR 683

By Oxbridge Law TeamUpdated 04/01/2024 07:04

Judgement for the case Halsey v Esso


  • The plaintiff's clothing and car experienced damage due to exposure to a harmful substance.

  • This damage to the plaintiff's belongings significantly harmed their property, classifying it as a private nuisance. The plaintiff's property suffered specific harm due to noxious smuts settling on their car while on a public highway, establishing a public nuisance case.

  • The odor emanating from the defendant's premises was considered a private nuisance due to its impact on nearby properties.

  • Private nuisance claims were established due to noise originating from boilers and road tankers, causing substantial interference with the ordinary physical comfort of human existence.

  • The concentration of moving vehicles in a confined section of the public highway was judged to be an unreasonable highway utilization, constituting a public nuisance.

  • The noise generated by these activities significantly disrupted the plaintiff's enjoyment of their residence, leading to a private nuisance claim.


  • The Queen's Bench Division concluded that the defendants were responsible for various forms of nuisance, encompassing acid smuts, odors, and noise, both as private and public nuisances. 


  • The Queen's Bench Division found the defendants liable for nuisance. 

  • The emission of acid smuts was deemed a nuisance as it caused damage to the plaintiff's clothing and car, both privately and publicly. 

  • The smell from the defendant's premises was considered a private nuisance, impacting the plaintiff's enjoyment.

  • The defendants were held responsible for private nuisance due to noise from boilers and road tankers, materially interfering with human comfort. 

  • The noise from concentrated traffic on a highway was considered a public nuisance, affecting the plaintiff's house enjoyment.


  • Defendant ran an oil depot near Plaintiff’s home. As a result Plaintiff’s car-paintwork was damaged and acid smuts appeared on Plaintiff’s clothes when hung out. There was also constant night time noise and occasional bad smells. 

  • QBD held:

    1. That the damage to clothes and car was to be compensated; 

    2. That the smell/noise was actionable nuisance since it happened frequently, wasn’t a triviality and health problems are NOT pre-requisites to making a claim of nuisance by noise/smell; 

    3. The noise and smell were actionable as “materially interfering with the ordinary comfort, physically, of human existence according to the standards of ordinary and reasonable persons living in that area”.

Veale J

  • The character of the area is not to be taken into consideration in cases of material damage to property, but IS relevant in nuisance by noise or smell, since there is no absolute standard and whether it is sufficient to constitute a nuisance depends on the area. 

  • Negligence does not have to be established for there to have been nuisance. 

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Tort Law Notes
1,070 total pages
853 purchased

Tort Law notes fully updated for recent exams at Oxford and Cambridg...