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Citizens for Preservation of Waterman Lake v. Davis

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendant entered into a contract with the Town to operate a commercial dumpster. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant was dumping garbage into the wetlands, in violation of the Fresh Water Wetlands Act. Plaintiff brought suit, and The Town intervened, alleging Defendant is acting in violation of the Act. The trial court held for Defendant, and Plaintiff and The Town appealed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    If a language is clear and unambiguous, the statute must be applied literally, not extended.

    Facts.

    The Town of Glocester, The Town, and Defendant, Davis, formed a contract that allowed Defendant to use a particular property owned by The Town as a commercial dump with third parties. Defendant and third parties had the authority to dump garbage from neighboring areas to throw away in the dumb. The Town alleges that Defendant dumped garbage in an area designated as a wetland. Citizens for Preservation of Waterman Lake, Plaintiff, initiated this action Defendant on the grounds that Defendant’s operation if the commercial dump violate the Fresh Water and Wetlands Act, causing a nuisance. Further, The Town intervened as plaintiffs in this action claiming Defendant violated the Fresh Water Wetlands Act. The trial court held for Defendant, and Plaintiff and The Town Appealed.

    Issue.

    Whether a statute that contains clear and unambiguous language must be applied literally.

    Held.

    Yes, a statute that contains clear and unambiguous language must be applied literally.

    Discussion.

    If a language is clear and unambiguous, the statute must be applied literally, not extended. Further, an existing law is an implied term in every contractual agreement. Thus parties may not seek to enforce a contract in violation of an existing law. Here, Plaintiff’s are seeking to assert the Fresh Water and Wetlands Act, which grants all the power to designate lands as wetlands to the “DNR Director” against a violator. The Act does not designate any power to a private citizen to enforce the act. Thus, if the DNR Director does not act a private citizen cannot enforce the Act. Because the DNR Director has not acted in this case, neither Plaintiff nor The Town have standing to bring suit against Defendant. Therefore, the trial court’s ruling is affirmed.


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