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Tort-private nuisance IV

Updated on July 24, 2017

Owners of fields and pitches have a duty to ensure that no disturbance is caused to neighbors or owners of adjoining lands and property. In Miller v Jackson (1977) the plaintiff purchased a home and the land her house was built on was next to a cricket pitch.

The balls that were hit by the batsmen often cleared the fence and landed on the plaintiff’s front lawn. Such was the nature of the game that batsmen were required to hit the ball as hard and as far as they could and the balls caused damage to the items and chattels that she had in her front yard.

The plaintiff complained and the cricket club erected a higher fence, and the number of balls that cleared the fence were somewhat reduced but there were still occasions when batsmen would hit the ball over the fence and the balls would land on the plaintiff’s lawn. Eventually, the plaintiff sought redress in court.

The court held that the plaintiff had the right to enjoy her property and the acts of the players of hitting the ball over the fence tampered or interfered with that right and as a result the actions of the batsmen constituted nuisance. The plaintiff was successful.

Owners of land or occupiers of property also have to take reasonable care to ensure that waste or debris from their land did not make its way to adjoining properties. In Goldman v Hargrave (1967) a tree on the defendant’s land was struck by lightning during a storm and subsequently caught fire. The next morning the defendant had the tree felled and sawn in half. Unknown to him however the tree was still smoldering and due to the extensive heat on the particular day, the tree once again caught fire and the fire spread to the plaintiff’s property, causing serious damage to the property. The plaintiff sued.

The court held that owners or occupiers of property had a duty to ensure that any waste or debris on their property did not make its way to adjoining properties. The plaintiff was successful.

The decision of the court in Goldman v Hargrave (1967) was reaffirmed in Leakey & Ors v National Trust (1980). Soil and debris from the defendants’ property caused damage to adjoining properties and one of the property owners, the plaintiff, contacted the defendants to have the problem remedied or rectified and offered to pay for part of the costs. The defendants rejected the plaintiff’s offer, and the problem worsened and eventually caused extensive damage to the plaintiff’s property. The plaintiff sued.

During the trial, the defendants adduced evidence to point out that the burrow mumps that were the source of the debris occurred naturally and hence they should not be liable. The court rejected the defendants’ argument and in line with the decision in Goldman v Hargrave (1967) found that the defendants were responsible for any damage caused to adjoining properties that occurred as a result of owners or occupiers failing to address any irregularities, natural or otherwise, on their land.

Though in order to be successful in an action alleging nuisance, the act must be repetitive and must be done over a period of time, yearly events for example the lighting of fireworks or the lighting of a bonfire on Guy Fawkes Day maybe be construed to be acts of nuisance if they become more frequent during the year.

In Kennaway v Thompson (1981) the plaintiff moved into her father’s house which was close to the starting point of the annual races of a motor boat racing club. The races grew more frequent and were eventually no longer an annual event but rather an event that was conducted regularly throughout the year. The plaintiff sought redress in court.

The court found for the plaintiff and decided that the increasingly frequent motor races were indeed a nuisance and that the races tampered with the plaintiff’s right to enjoy her property.

Owners of property have a duty to ensure that their property is not taken over by squatters and in the event that it is, the owners would be responsible for any damage or discomfort caused to owners of adjoining properties by the squatters.

In Page Motors v Epsom Borough Council (1982) the plaintiff ran a second-hand car business in his yard which adjoined vacant land that belonged to the defendant. The land was left vacant for a period of time and was subsequently occupied by squatters. The resulting noise and other actions of the squatters caused the plaintiff a great deal of discomfort and the plaintiff brought an action against the defendant in court.

The court held that the council was liable and had a responsibility to ensure that any occupant on its land did not become a nuisance to owners of adjoining properties.

© 2017 Kathiresan Ramachanderam and Dyarne Jessica Ward

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