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Winget v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc

    Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiffs, Winget and others (Plaintiffs), brought suit alleging that the operation of the Defendant, Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc’s (Defendant), adjoining grocery supermarket constituted a nuisance due to its location and the manner of its operation.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. A business that meets all municipal requirements regarding the establishment of the business and is not constructed in such a manner as to interfere with the rights of others, cannot constitute a nuisance based on its location.

    Facts. The Plaintiffs brought an action for damages sustained from the location and operation of the Defendant’s grocery supermarket. The Plaintiffs claimed that Defendant’s store operation constituted a nuisance and in addition to damages, requested an order restraining Defendant from using the property for a grocery business or for any other business purpose. The trial court gave judgment for the Plaintiffs in the sum of $5,000, and denied the request for injunctive relief. Defendant appealed.

    Issue. Did the trial judge properly refuse Defendant’s motions for a directed verdict and a new trial?

    Held. The trial court properly refused Defendant’s motion for a directed verdict and improperly refused its motion for a new trial.
    * Plaintiffs claim that Defendant’s supermarket was a nuisance because of its location and the manner of its operation. The Defendant’s grocery supermarket met every requirement of the municipal authorities and under the facts it cannot be held that the location of the business constituted a nuisance.
    * However, a lawful business may constitute a nuisance if the business is conducted in an unreasonable manner so as to unreasonably interfere with the lawful use and enjoyment of others’ property. In the present case, Plaintiffs contend that the influx of traffic and the trash trucks and street sweepers operated at late night hours constitutes a nuisance. The traffic influx occurs during reasonable hours and the operation of the trash removal is the usual operation of the city. These activities do not constitute a nuisance when the relative rights of the parties are examined.
    * Other allegations by Plaintiffs did require submission to the jury, such as the operation of fans blowing on Plaintiffs’ property, floodlights shining on Plaintiffs’ property and trash that was allowed to escape onto Plaintiffs’ property. These activities were properly submitted to the jury and Defendant’s motion for a direct verdict on these facts was properly denied.
    * Defendant also contends that a new trial should be granted based on the improper admission of testimony relating to depreciation in Plaintiffs’ property value. If there is no public or private nuisance created by the use of property, no damage recovery can be allowed for diminution in property value. The testimony regarding property value should have been stricken and Defendant’s should be granted a new trial based on this error.

    Discussion. A business that is lawfully operated still may constitute a nuisance if it unreasonably interferes with the use and enjoyment of the property of others.


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