Brief Fact Summary.
Reynolds’ nearby aluminum eduction plant damaged Martin’s land and poisoned his cattle.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
Trespass is any intrusion which invades the possessor’s protected interest in exclusive possession, whether that intrusion is by visible or invisible pieces of matter or by energy which can be measured only by the mathematical language of the physicist.
The plaintiffs allege that during the period from August 22, 1951 to January 1, 1956 the defendant, in the operation of its aluminum reduction plant near Troutdale, Oregon caused certain fluoride compounds in the form of gases and particulates to become airborne and settle upon the plaintiffs' land rendering it unfit for raising livestock during that period.View Full Point of Law
Martin sued for trespass after Reynolds’ nearby aluminum eduction plant damaged his land and poisoned his cattle.
Was the damage the result of a trespass or private nuisance?
The intrusion constituted a trespass.
A trespass occurs when there is an invasion of a possessor’s interest in the exclusive possession of land. In contrast, a nuisance occurs when there is an invasion of a possessor’s interest in the use and enjoyment of his land.
The same conduct could constitute a trespass or a nuisance. When an action is brought on grounds of nuisance, a court will not necessarily review the facts to find a trespass even if such a claim would have been possible. Reynolds relies on many of these cases.
While some cases have found no trespass where a defendant’s interference with a plaintiff’s land came from effluents settling onto the plaintiff’s land, other cases have found a trespass by the deposit of small objects over the surface of the possessor’s land (e.g., molten lead, soot, and gunshot pellets) and by vibration of soil or air.
If courts must look to the character of the instrumentality used in making an intrusion on another’s land, courts should then focus on the energy or force of an object rather than its size.