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Law School Case Brief

Owen v. Phillips - 73 Ind. 284 (1881)


In an application for an injunction against maintaining a private nuisance, the facts relied upon ought to be so weighty, so material and so serious and important in character, as to leave no doubt that they create an actionable nuisance. Yet the court ought not to use any expression in its charge to the jury in such case that will induce the belief that the facts constituting the complainant's cause of action must be proved beyond a doubt.


A corporation erected and put in operation a flouring mill, in close proximity the homeowners' house. The mill burned, but when the corporation sought to rebuild, the homeowners filed suit arguing that the mill was a nuisance, and that it could not be operated without becoming a nuisance. This was because that the smoke and cinders made the water of the homeowners' cisterns and wells foul and impure; that the noise, the smoke, dust, dirt, and offensive odors caused by the running of the mill, essentially interfered with their enjoyment of life and property. The trial court granted an injunction, and the company appealed.


Did the Court err in granting the injunction?




The Court reversed the injunction on the basis that the jury was improperly instructed. It held that locality is sometimes an important element in determining whether a business is or is not a nuisance, and the court has no disposition to run counter to that rule. If one erected a dwelling-house among mills and factories propelled by steam, which have been long established, he must expect to suffer the ordinary inconveniences and annoyances which are inseparable from such establishments. Thus, the court approved the doctrine that in some localities, a business will be considered a nuisance, while it would not be so in others. But wherever the mill or factory may be located, whatever its surroundings, property owners of the vicinity have a right to require that it shall be properly managed, conducted with ordinary care and proper regard for the rights of others, and in such a way as that no unnecessary inconvenience or annoyance shall be caused them.

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