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Adams v. Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Co.

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Empire Mine(defendant) operated 24 hours a day and produced 8 million tons of iron ore annually. The mine emitted vibrations, noise, odors and dust. Adams (plaintiff) and 54 other nearby homeowners brought suit for trespass and nuisance.

     

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Noise, vibrations, and dust are intangible objects and therefore do not give rise to an action in trespass.These items are typically thought of as irritants posing a nuisance by interfering with a neighbors’ enjoyment of their property.

     

    Facts.

    Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Co. (defendant) operated Empire Mine 24 hours a day and produced 8 million tons of iron ore annually. The mine emitted vibrations, noise, odors and dust. Adams (plaintiff) and 54 other nearby homeowners brought suit for trespass and nuisance. The plaintiffs testified that the noise and vibrations from the blasts caused them to suffer shock, nervousness, and sleeplessness. A jury found that three of the 55 plaintiffs were not entitled to recover under either trespass or nuisance. After being instructed by the trial judge that trespass may include airborne particles, noise, or vibrations, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the 52 plaintiffs as to trespass and awarded damages. Cleveland-Cliffs appealed.

     

    Issue.

    Whether an action an action in trespass requires that the intrusion onto property be direct or immediate and in the form of physical, tangible objects?

     

    Discussion.

    In Michigan recovery for trespass is available only upon a showing that a physical, tangible object made a “direct or immediate intrusion” upon a plaintiff’s land. A “direct or immediate” intrusion for purposes of trespass is one that is accomplished by any means that the offender knew or reasonably should have known would result in the physical invasion of the plaintiff’s land. Once an intrusion is proved, the plaintiff is entitled to at least nominal damages. If a landowner is irritated by noise, vibrations, dust, smoke or other intangible items, the possessory interest implicated is that of use and enjoyment, not exclusion, and thus the doctrine of nuisance is applicable. To prevail in nuisance, a plaintiff must show that he incurred significant harm resulting from a defendant’s unreasonable interference with the use or enjoyment of his property.

     


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