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Where the plaintiff's complaint invoked the equitable jurisdiction of the district court, whether or not the trial court erred in instructing the jury is immaterial since the judge, not the jury, had the responsibility for making the ultimate findings and decision in the matter.
Plaintiff appellants are homeowners who live near a cattle feedlot owned and operated by respondents. Appellants filed a complaint in March, 1978, alleging that the feedlot had been expanded in 1977 to accommodate the feeding of approximately 9,000 cattle. Appellants further alleged that "the spread and accumulation of manure, pollution of river and ground water, odor, insect infestation, increased concentration of birds, . . . dust and noise" allegedly caused by the feedlot constituted a nuisance. After a trial on the merits a jury found that the feedlot did not constitute a nuisance. The trial court then also made findings and conclusions that the feedlot did not constitute a nuisance. Appellants assigned as error the jury instructions which instructed the jury that in the determination of whether a nuisance exists consideration should be given to such factors as community interest, utility of conduct, business standards and practices, gravity of harm caused, and the circumstances surrounding the parties' movement to their locations. On appeal, appellants chose not to provide an evidentiary record, but merely claimed that the instructions misstated the law in Idaho. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial. The basis for this reversal was that the trial court did not give a jury instruction based upon subsection (b) of Section 826 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts. That subsection allows for a finding of a nuisance even though the gravity of harm is outweighed by the utility of the conduct if the harm is "serious" and the payment of damages is "feasible" without forcing the business to discontinue.
Did the appellate court err in reversing the decision?
The court found that the appellate court erred in reversing the decision and reinstated the decision of the district court. The plaintiffs did not make an affirmative showing of error on appeal; therefore, the court presumed that substantial, competent evidence existed to support the district judge's finding that no nuisance existed. Any error in jury instructions would be immaterial since, as a court of equity, there was an advisory jury, and the judge, not the jury, was ultimately responsible for making the findings and decision in the matter. Appellants also failed to address the adequacy of the district judge's findings in the memorandum opinion.