Brief Fact Summary. A couple discovered their house was slipping down a hill and believed the slipping was caused by an adjacent landowner’s deteriorated retaining wall.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A landowner is entitled to receive lateral support, which is support from adjoining soil, of his land in its natural state.
Issue. Does an adjoining landowner have liability when his lateral support of land is sufficient to hold his neighbor’s land in its natural state, but insufficient to support the additional weight of a building?
If, as a result of the additional weight of a building, so much extra strain is placed upon existing or artificial lateral support that the support will no longer hold, then in the absence of negligence, the adjoining landowner will not have liability.
Here, if the weight of the plaintiff’s house placed so much pressure on the soil that the house itself caused the subsidence, and the land would not have subsided without the weight of the house, then the plaintiffs cannot recover.
At the time the retaining wall was built, no buildings were on plaintiffs’ property. The wall merely needed to support plaintiffs’ land in its natural condition. The only obligation of the defendant was to maintain the wall to support the plaintiffs’ land in its natural condition.
In order to recover, the plaintiffs must prove that the disrepair of the retaining wall would have led to the subsidence of their land in its natural condition.
A landowner is entitled, ex jure naturae, to lateral support in the adjacent land for his soil.View Full Point of Law