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Case Overviews

Philadelphia Electric Co. v. Hercules, Inc. (1985)


Philadelphia Electric was forced to clean up chemicals spilled by the previous owner of its recently purchased plant. It sued for the cost of the cleanup under a private nuisance theory.

Issue 1:

Is the purchaser of real property entitled to recover damages from the seller on a private nuisance theory for the negative conditions existing on the land?

Rule 1:

One who sells real property is not liable to the purchaser in nuisance for defects present on the property at the time of transfer. Private nuisance actions are meant to protect the interests of neighbors, not purchasers.

Issue 2:

May a private actor bring a tort suit for a public nuisance?

Rule 2:

To bring a private action for public nuisance a party must have suffered a harm different in kind from that suffered by the general public. The particular damage must have been produced from the exercising of the public right which was the subject of interference.


A public nuisance is generally prosecuted by the state as a low-grade criminal offense.

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