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Private Nuisance, Public Nuisance, And Rylands V Fletcher Liability Notes

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Public Nuisance, Private Nuisance, and Rylands v Fletcher Liability Public nuisance is a nuisance that is against the law and endangers the health, morals etc of the public. It comprises a long list of (usually criminal) offences. Private nuisance is that which interrupts an individual's enjoyment of their land.

1. Private Nuisance St Helen's Smelting Co v Tipping (1865) 11 HLC 642: D's smelting operation harmed the trees etc on P's estate. HL held that D's operation was nuisance. Lord Westbury LC: There is a distinction between alleged nuisances (1) that cause material injury to the property and (2) those which cause "sensible personal discomfort" e.g. noise etc. Regarding (2), including things that affect one's quiet, enjoyment, personal freedom, the nerves or the senses, the circumstances of the place where it occurs determine whether it is a nuisance. E.g. in a town, the processes of business, if carried on in a "fair and reasonable" way, are not nuisances. The point is not to classify as nuisances that which is "necessary for the legitimate and free exercise of trade". However in (1) the threshold for something being classified as a nuisance is lower. Here it is a nuisance. He doesn't say what the test is for cases of material injury to property. Tony Weir: The category of "material injury to property" should not include economic damage, since a smell would reduce the value of the property and render the distinction null and void. Halsey v Esso [1961] 1 WLR 683: D ran an oil depot near P's home. As a result P's carpaintwork was damaged and acid smuts appeared on P'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. Southwark LBC v Mills [1999] 4 All ER 449, 459-460, 464-466: P sued their landlord, D, for having failed to provide effective insulation against the day-to-day noises of their neighbours (whose noise was no more than ordinary and reasonable). CA rejected their claims. It held that that the ordinary and reasonable use of residential premises by its occupier was not in itself an actionable nuisance and therefore, where the noise was ordinary and reasonable (i.e. not a nuisance), a landlord couldn't be liable for having authorised it (Lord Hoffmann).

Laws v Florinplace [1981] 1 All ER 659: Ds opened a sex shop with signs and Ps (residents of local area) claimed actionable nuisance due to their offence at the shop being present. Court allowed P's claim. Vinelott J held that an actionable nuisance extends to cover cases where use of property is such an affront to the reasonable susceptibilities of ordinary people that it constitutes interference with reasonable domestic enjoyment of property. Hunter v Canary Wharf [1997] AC 655: Ps, local residents, claimed actionable nuisance against D during the erection of canary wharf, which interfered with their TV signal. HL held (1) that TV interference was not an actionable nuisance, and (2) that of those affected, only those with exclusive possession of property could sue. Lord Goff: On point (1): as a general rule, a man's right to build on his land is not restricted by the fact that the presence of the building may of itself interfere with his neighbour's enjoyment of his land. On point (2): Only freeholders, tenants in possession, licensees with exclusive possession or, exceptionally, people in possession but without a right to be there, can sue. NOT mere licensees. Without this restriction it would be uncertain what the limits are on who can sue i.e. floodgates (No: the CA had proposed those with a "substantial link" to the land, to be resolved through litigation) Lord Hoffmann: In the category of "material damage to property", the tort is concerned with damage to land, not persons. Hence only a person with title to the land can claim for compensation for damage to it. He says that the second category of "sensible personal discomfort" is also for compensating damage to the land, since it is the injury inflicted upon the land that causes the sensory discomfort. Hence for this category too there has to be title. Cane, "What a nuisance": Hoffmann is wrong because: Firstly it fails to take account of tort law's underlying principle of fault-based unreasonableness; secondly it fails to explain why a party may sue for property damage and personal-injury negligence without the need for title to property, but not loss of amenity. Lord Cooke (agreeing on point (1) but dissenting on point (2)): It is an unjustified discrimination against unofficial residents to require proprietary interest e.g. the wife/children of an official resident. There are no floodgates/definitional problems since many common law jurisdictions take this approach to nuisance. All those living in the home should be able to enforce, and litigation would work out the borderline cases. Wheeler v JJ Saunders [1995] 2 All ER 897: D got planning permission to house pigs in buildings bordering P's premises which he let as holiday cottages. Due to the resulting smell P lost custom and sued D for nuisance. CA held that this was a nuisance and that it was no defence for D to argue that it had gained statutory permission, since this did not change the character of the area from a residential one to an agricultural one, and therefore did not alter the standards to be applied in determining whether there was nuisance. Sanction by statutory body does NOT prevent the action being a nuisance.

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