Plaintiffs sued defendant for trespass and nuisance, claiming defendant company’s emission damaged plaintiffs’ properties.
Whenever the damage resulting from a nuisance is found not unsubstantial ($ 100 a year), injunction should flow.
Defendant is a company that operated a large cement plant near plaintiffs’ properties. The factory’s emitted vibration, smoke, and dirt damaged plaintiff’s properties. Both lower courts ruled that defendant maintained a nuisance, but found injunction inappropriate. Plaintiffs appealed.
Should the injunction be granted where nuisance has been found and where there has been substantial damage shown by the party complaining?
Lower court decision reversed. New York Court of Appeals ruled that injunction should be given, but upon the payment of permanent damages to plaintiffs.
The Court stated that the fundamental question raised here is whether the court should resolve the litigation between the parties as equitably as seems possible; or should it seeks promotion of the general public welfare and channel private litigation into broad public objectives. Because the ruling of this case would impact pollution regulations which is a government function not a court function, this Court was cautious in keeping rules consistent.
The rule in NY had been that nuisance will be enjoined although marked disparity be shown in economic consequence between the effect of the injunction and the effect of the nuisance. The Court argued that follow this rule literally would be to close the polluting plant at once which is inappropriately drastic. The Court then discussed two other solutions:
grant an injunction, but postpone it’s effectiveness to allow for technological advances that would eliminate the nuisance or
grant an injunction conditioned on payment of permanent damages to the plaintiffs.
The Court concluded that the second solution is better, where plaintiffs would be compensated while the court not making pollution regulations.