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Ensign v. Walls

    Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendant’s use of her property constitutes a nuisance. Defendant argued that her use was prior to the Plaintiffs moving to the area, and as a result, an injunction should not be granted.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Carrying on an offensive trade for any number of years in a place remote from buildings and public roads, does not entitle the owner to continue it in the same place after houses have been built. The fact that Plaintiffs ‘came to the nuisance’ is not a defense.

    Facts. Defendant raises and breeds St. Bernard dogs. Plaintiffs are nearby property owners and neighbors. Plaintiffs sued for injunctive relief. The complaint alleged that obnoxious odors came from Defendant’s premises and the continual barking of the dogs interfered with and disturbed the Plaintiffs in the use and enjoyment of their respective properties. Plaintiffs also stated that Defendant’s premises were infested with rats and flies, and that on occasion, dogs escaped from their premises and roamed the neighborhood. Defendant claimed that Plaintiffs are not entitled to the injunction, because many of the Plaintiffs had just recently moved into the area, and were aware of Defendant’s business prior to their move. The court found that Defendant’s business represented a nuisance to Plaintiffs, and that Defendant had not acquired the right to continue the nuisance by prescriptive use of the property. Defendant appealed.

    Issue. Should Plaintiffs be denied equitable relief because Defendant’s use of her property was prior to Plaintiffs’ use of their property?

    Held. No. Judgment affirmed.
    * Carrying on an offensive trade for any number of years in a place remote from buildings and public roads, does not entitle the owner to continue it in the same place after houses have been built. As the city extends, such nuisances should be removed to the vacant grounds beyond the immediate neighborhood of the citizens’ residences. In this case, Defendant’s use was not a nuisance to the surrounding property owners twenty years ago, but now that the city has expanded, Defendant’s land is encompassed by a residential neighborhood. Plaintiffs are entitled to the use and enjoyment of their land. Defendant must move if she wishes to continue her use.

    Discussion. The city is continuing to expand and Plaintiffs are entitled to enjoy their land. If the court were to permit Defendant to continue her use, the numerous residential properties surrounding Defendant’s premises would be impaired. It only makes sense to require Defendant to stop her use of the property, or move. Coming to the nuisance is not a defense.



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