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Law School Case Brief

Rankin v. FPL Energy, LLC - 266 S.W.3d 506 (Tex. App. 2008)

Rule:

The injury or annoyance which warrants relief against an alleged nuisance must be of a real and substantial character, and such as impairs the ordinary enjoyment, physically, of the property within its sphere; for if the injury or inconvenience be merely theoretical, or if it be slight or trivial, or fanciful, or one of mere delicacy or fastidiousness, there is no nuisance in a legal sense. Thus the law will not declare a thing a nuisance because it is unsightly or disfigured, because it is not in a proper or suitable condition, or because it is unpleasant to the eye and a violation of the rules of propriety and good taste, for the law does not cater to men's tastes or consult their convenience merely, but only guards and upholds their material rights, and shields them from unwarrantable invasion. Matters that annoy by being disagreeable, unsightly, and undesirable are not nuisances simply because they may to some extent affect the value of property.

Facts:

Plaintffs, who were weveral individuals and one corporation, filed suit against defendants FPL Energy, LLC; FPL Energy Horse Hollow Wind, LP; FPL Energy Horse Hollow Wind, LP, LLC; FPL Energy Horse Hollow Wind GP, LLC; FPL Energy Callahan Wind Group, LLC; and FPL Energy Callahan, LP (FPL). Plaintiffs sought injunctive relief and asserted public and private nuisance claims relating to the construction and operation of the Horse Hollow Wind Farm in southwest Taylor County. FPL filed a motion for partial summary judgment directed at Plaintiffs' nuisance claims. The trial court granted it in part, dismissing Plaintiffs' claims to the extent they were based on the wind farm's visual impact. Plaintiffs' remaining private nuisance claim proceeded to trial. The jury found against Plaintiffs, and the trial court entered a take-nothing judgment.

Issue:

Did the trial court err by granting summary judgment on the nuisance claim based upon the wind farm's visual impact?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The court held that plaintiffs' evidence made clear that, if the wind farm was a nuisance, it was because plaintiffs' emotional response to the loss of their view due to the presence of numerous wind turbines substantially interfered with the use and enjoyment of their property. Because the operation of the wind farm was lawful, it could not constitute a nuisance per se. That factor was critical. Plaintiffs did not contend that the operations were unlawful but minimized that factor by arguing that even a lawful business could be considered a nuisance if it was abnormal and out of place in its surroundings. Merely characterizing the wind farm as abnormal and out of place in its surroundings did not allow a nuisance claim based on an emotional reaction to the sight of wind turbines. The loss of the view undoubtedly impacted plaintiffs. A landowner's view, however, was largely defined by the purpose for which his neighbors were utilizing their property. exas caselaw recognizes few restrictions on the lawful use of property.

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