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Maryland requires that in order to recover for private nuisance, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant's interference with plaintiff's property rights is both unreasonable and substantial, and that the harm or inconvenience created by such interference is objectively reasonable to the ordinary person.
Drive-in movie theaters, like soda fountains, juke boxes, and The Platters, were instances of 1950s post-war Americana that trigger instant feelings of nostalgia. Maryland once boasted as many as 47 drive-ins. However, today, only Bengies Drive-In Movie Theatre remained. In 2010, Bengies, by and through plaintiff Blue Ink, Ltd., and The Last Picture Show, LLC, filed a lawsuit against defendant Peppermint Woods Ltd. and Two Farms Inc., alleging claims of negligence, trespass, and private nuisance relating to the lights emanating from the defendant’s premises onto plaintiff’s property. The jury verdict was in favor of plaintiff for private nuisance claims. The jury awarded plaintiff for damages to construct a fence to block light that emanates at night from the defendant. The circuit court considered defendant’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) and, after concluding there was insufficient evidence for a jury to find a private nuisance, it set aside the jury's verdict and entered judgment in favor of defendant. Plaintiff appealed.
Was the evidence presented at trial legally sufficient for the jury to find the existence of a private nuisance by a preponderance of the evidence?
The court affirmed the judgment and held that the decision granting appellee’s motion for JNOV was proper since the evidence presented at trial was not legally sufficient to support a jury verdict in favor of the appellant for a private nuisance. The court held that the individual who operated the drive-in testified that lights from the appellee’s property caused harm to the drive-in, but no other evidence was presented that an ordinary person, or even patrons or employees of the drive-in, were ever harmed or inconvenienced by the lights, and instead, the testimony was that the drive-in had no complaints from customers about the lights.