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Hendricks v. Stalnaker

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Hendricks and Stalnaker each own land that is adjacent to one another. The town in which they live in contains an ordinance that does not allow tanks to be positioned within 100 feet of a water well. Before Hendricks applied for a permit to install a septic tank on his property, Stalnaker applied to obtain a permit to build a water well. Because it would be impossible for Hendricks to build a septic tank without being within 100 feet of Stalnaker’s water well, Handricks brought suit claiming Stalnaker’s water well was a nuisance.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    To determine whether an intentional interference with the enjoyment of land is unreasonable, the court must weight the landowner’s interest.

    Facts.

    Hendricks and Stalnaker were landowners holding plots of land that are located adjacent to each other. The town where their land was located regulated the placement of septic tanks. The regulation stated that a tank could not be positioned within 100 feet of a water well. Shortly before Hendricks applied for a water well permit, Stalnaker applied for a permit to install a water well on his land. Due to the two adjacent plots layout, it was impossible for Hendricks to later install a septic tank without being within 100 feet of Stalnaker’s water well. Hendricks brought suit against Stalnaker on the grounds that Stalnaker’s water well was a nuisance.

    Issue.

    What must the court weigh when determining whether an intentional interference with the enjoyment of land is unreasonable?

    Held.

    The court must weight the landowner’s interest.

    Discussion.

    To determine whether an intentional interference with the enjoyment of land is unreasonable, the court must weight the landowner’s interest.

    Here, even though the construction of the water well hinders Hendricks from building a septic tank, Hendricks’ construction of the septic tank would hinder Stalnaker’s construction of the water well. Additionally, both, the water well and the septic tank, offer service that is necessary to the properties where they are built. Thus, because both forms of properties would be benefit by the construction of either the septic tank or the water well, the landowner’s interests in the case are similar. Thus, neither party’s interest outweighs the other. Therefore, Stalnaker’s construction of the water well is not an unreasonable interference with Hendricks desire to use a septic tank, and it is not a nuisance.


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