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Law School Case Brief

Campbell v. Seaman - 63 N.Y. 568 (1876)

Rule:

Every person is bound to make a reasonable use of his property so as to occasion no unnecessary damage or annoyance to his neighbor. If he make an unreasonable, unwarrantable or unlawful use of it, so as to produce material annoyance, inconvenience, discomfort or hurt to his neighbor, he will be guilty of a nuisance to his neighbor. And the law will hold him responsible for the consequent damage.

Facts:

Intermittently over a period of 25 years, Nathan N. Seaman (Seaman) used his property to make bricks. The curing of the bricks in a kiln released a sulfuric acid gas that was carried on the wind onto the land of several individuals (respondents). The sulfuric acid gas caused damage to respondents’ trees and lowered the value of their lands. In a suit brought by the respondents against Seaman, the Supreme Court in the Third Judicial Department (New York) found that Seaman created a nuisance for which respondents were entitled to damages. The court enjoined Seaman from burning brick using anthracite coal in the kiln on his property. Seaman appealed the judgment.

Issue:

Was an injunction enjoining a brickmaker from using anthracite coal in his kiln properly issued against Seaman?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Court affirmed the judgment of the lower court and determined that the injunction was not issued in error because respondents proved that they would have suffered irreparable injury for which there was no adequate remedy at law. According to the Court, the lower court did not err in assessing damages to compensate respondents for the loss of their trees. The Court held that respondents were not estopped from asserting their rights by failing to assert them for 25 years. The nuisance was created recently as Seaman started using anthracite coal in the curing process that caused the sulfuric acid gas recently.

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