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Law School Case Brief

Armory Park Neighborhood Ass'n v. Episcopal Cmty. Servs. - 148 Ariz. 1, 712 P.2d 914 (1985)

Rule:

The inquiry in a nuisance claim is not whether the activity allegedly constituting the nuisance is lawful but whether it is reasonable under the circumstances. A criminal violation is only one factor among others to be used in determining reasonableness. A public nuisance is an unreasonable interference with a right common to the general public. Circumstances that may sustain a holding that an interference with a public right is unreasonable include the following: (a) Whether the conduct involves a significant interference with the public health, the public safety, the public peace, the public comfort or the public convenience; (b) whether the conduct is proscribed by a statute, ordinance or administrative regulation; or (c) whether the conduct is of a continuing nature or has produced a permanent or long-lasting effect, and, as the actor knows or has reason to know, has a significant effect upon the public right.

Facts:

On December 11, 1982, defendant Episcopal Community Services in Arizona (ECS) opened the St. Martin's Center (Center) in Tucson. The Center's only purpose is to provide one free meal a day to indigent persons. Plaintiff Armory Park Neighborhood Association (APNA) is a non-profit corporation organized for the purpose of "improving, maintaining and insuring the quality of the neighborhood known as Armory Park Historical Residential District." The Center is located on Arizona Avenue, the western boundary of the Armory Park district. On January 10, 1984, APNA filed a complaint in Pima County Superior Court, seeking to enjoin ECS from operating its free food distribution program. The complaint alleged that the Center's activities constituted a public nuisance and that the Armory Park residents had sustained injuries from transient persons attracted to their neighborhood by the Center. The appellate court vacated a preliminary injunction. APNA appealed. 

Issue:

Did the Center’s free food distribution program constitute a public nuisance as it affected residents' use and enjoyment of real property?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The court affirmed. Acts allegedly committed by the patrons of the Center affected residents' use and enjoyment of real property. The damage was special in nature and different in kind from that generally experienced by residents. The residents of the neighborhood could sue to recover damages for or enjoin the maintenance of a public nuisance. The ECS’s activity could be enjoined upon the showing of a causal connection between that activity and harm to the residents. Testimony supported the trial judge's finding of a causal link between the acts of ECS and the injuries suffered by residents. Evidence of the multiple trespasses upon and defacement of the residents' property supported the trial court's conclusion that the interference caused by the operation was unreasonable despite its charitable cause.

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