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A public nuisance may be proved by a few witnesses. It is the extent and the nature of the acts and the resulting damage which are important, not the number of witnesses. The fact a defendant has made some efforts to cut down the amount of noise does not go to the question of the existence of a nuisance. A defendant may use all the means possible in the operation of a legitimate business and yet that operation can cause damage and constitute a nuisance. Neither the legitimacy of the business nor the length of time it has been in existence is controlling in determining whether a public nuisance exists. Those factors are relevant to the question of whether the court should exercise its discretion to enjoin the nuisance.
The junkyard was on the only heavy industrial block in the area, and its metal salvaging operations created air noise and ground vibrations. City ordinances prescribed maximum permissible noise and vibration levels, and though the city took no action, the State accused the junkyard of repeatedly violating the ordinance and creating a nuisance. The State sought an injunction to limit operations of the junkyard. Experts testified that the noise and vibrations exceeded permissible limits, and homeowners testified to disrupted sleep and enjoyment, added expenses, and loss of use. The junkyard showed its attempts to curb the disturbance, evidence that only a few people ever complained, and information on other industrial plants in the area, and the trial court concluded that an injunction was not warranted. The State appealed.
Under the circumstances, should an injunction be issued to enjoin the operation of the junkyard?
On review, the court found that the extent and the nature of the acts and the resulting damage were most important, not the number of witnesses, and that the repeated violations of the ordinance constituted a public nuisance as a matter of law. The court found that the degree of harm determined whether an injunction should issue, and that the operations should be limited according to the hours specified in the ordinance.