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Law School Case Brief

Smith v. New England Aircraft Co. - 270 Mass. 511, 170 N.E. 385 (1930)


Even with the utmost reasonable assumption as to the private rights in airspace of the owner of the underlying land, the provisions of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 534 (1922) constitute valid regulations of the flight of aircraft in airspace actually unoccupied by the owner of the underlying land.


When an airport was built next to the plaintiff property owners' estate, the property owners found that the noise of the low flying airplanes interfered with their enjoyment of the land. The property owners filed an equitable action that alleged nuisance and sought injunctive relief and damages against defendants, airplane owners and the airport. The trial court granted judgment to the airplane owners and the airport and assessed costs against the property owners. The property owners appealed.


Were plaintiffs, property owners who lived near an airport, entitled to injunctive relief?




The Court affirmed the decision of the trial court, holding that although were certain rights attached to the land, those rights were balanced against the rights of others to fly over the land. After reviewing various state and federal statutes, the Court noted that the governments had given tacit approval to the rights of those who wished to fly, but regulated the altitude and manner of such flight. Because the flights at lower altitudes took place on the wooded, rather than the inhabited, portion of the property owners' land, neither an injunction nor damages was warranted.

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