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Rogers v. Elliot

    Brief Fact Summary. Elliott (Defendant) rang a church bell, which he knew would hurt Rogers (Plaintiff) who was recovering from a serious case of sunstroke. Plaintiff sued Defendant.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. One must act reasonably, using his property in a manner that would be acceptable to the common man.

    Facts. Plaintiff was recovering from a serious case of sunstroke in a house near the church when Defendant rang the church bell. Plaintiff suffered severe convulsions due to the noise generated by the bell. Plaintiff’s doctor warned Defendant that the bell was hurting Plaintiff, and urged him to stop ringing it. Defendant did not like Plaintiff, so he told the doctor that he would continue to ring the bell, and that he would ring the bell even if his mother were ill. Plaintiff suffered further damage. Plaintiff brought an action against Defendant.

    Issue. Was it unlawful for Defendant to ring the bell in the manner which he do so?

    Held. No. Judgment on the verdict.
    * One must simply act reasonably, using his property in a manner that would be acceptable to the common man. The answer to the fundamental question is that one must take action that is reasonable under the circumstances. This standard is more lenient in a less populated area, but more stringent in a densely populated area. The right to make noise for a proper purpose must be measured in reference to the degree of annoyance which others may reasonably be required to submit to. Legal rights as to the use of property must not be left to uncertainty. The test must be the common care of persons of ordinary prudence, without regard to the peculiarities of one or two people.

    Discussion. The Restatement (Second) of Torts adopted the reasoning and holding in this case. “There is liability for a nuisance only to those to whom it causes significant harm, of a kind that would be suffered by a normal person in the community or by property in normal condition and used for a normal purpose.”


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