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Tort-Private nuisance V

Updated on July 24, 2017

In Tate & Lyle v Greater London Council (1983) the plaintiffs were owners of a sugar factory located close to a jetty and used boats and barges to transport the sugar that they produced to larger ships. At the time, the defendants were dredging the water for the purposes of constructing a jetty that would allow larger boats to dock.

The dredging churned up the dirt and grime from the river bed and the water subsequently became too dirty for the plaintiffs to use, possibly because what was churned up from the waterbeds made it unsafe for small boats and barges. The plaintiffs sued.

The court in line with the decision in Malone v Laskey (1907) held that in order to be successful in a nuisance claim the plaintiff must have some proprietary interest in the property and because the plaintiffs didn’t their claim failed.

The exception to the rule occurred in Khorasandjian v Bush (1993). The decision in Khorasandjian v Bush (1993) was later overruled in the case of Hunter v Canary Wharf (1998) but it is still worth looking at the facts.

The plaintiff who had successfully obtained an injunction against the defendant for harassment sought to bring an action against him in nuisance for repeatedly verbally abusing her or making threatening gestures whenever he saw her.

The defendant argued that because the plaintiff did not have a proprietary interest she could not bring an action in nuisance. The judge found for the plaintiff, in that, in certain situations, given the gravity of the matter, the plaintiff doesn’t need to have an interest in the property to bring an action in nuisance.

Preventing others from carrying out their duties could also be interpreted as nuisance especially if they are paid employees of a company or an organization. In Thomas v National Union of Mineworkers (1986) workers belonging to a union decided to picket to air their grievances.

However not all the workers were in favor of union action, in many organizations today, while employees are encouraged to be a member of an union because the function of the union is to protect the rights of the workers especially in instances of unfair dismissals or racial or gender discrimination (this is one of the reasons why unions are generally regarded as the left), there are some workers who can, depending on the laws or bylaws decide not to be a union member or can, even if they are unionized, choose not to take part in union action.

The defendants tried to dissuade those who had decided against union action or had chosen not to participate in the strike from entering their work premises or from continuing to work and the plaintiffs turned to the court for help. The court found in favor of the plaintiffs and decided that preventing others from carrying on with their normal occupation was a nuisance.

Businesses set up close to residential areas, have a duty to ensure that their business does not interfere or tamper with the rights of others to enjoy their property. In Tetley v Chitty (1986) the council had granted the defendants a license to set up a go cart track close to a residential area. Go-karts though they are fun are fairly noisy affairs and the noise was a disturbance to some of the residents who lived close to the track. The residents, the plaintiffs brought an action against the council and the court decided in favor of the plaintiffs.

Where consent is given to develop property with the intention of improving the living standards in an area or the living conditions in a locality then the act is not an act of nuisance.

In Gillingham Borough Council v Medway Dock (1993) the defendants had obtained permission to turn a disused dock into a commercially viable operation and the work that was to be done required the ferrying of material and equipment that were needed to make the structural changes that were required.

The materials were not only transported during the day but were also transported at night and the noise made by heavy lorries and other vehicles that transported the material was a disturbance to the local residents. The residents brought the matter before the council and the council approached the court to obtain an injunction to stop the project from continuing.

The court held that despite the fact that planning permission is not a license to commit nuisance however if the change can alter the character of a neighborhood it may render activities that were once actionable in nuisance as non-actionable or innocent.

© 2017 Kathiresan Ramachanderam and Dyarne Jessica Ward

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