Gilbert v. Showerman

23 Mich. 448 (1871)



An offensive trade or manufacture may call as legitimately for the interference of equity as any other nuisance, for, though these are lawful and necessary, yet they should be exercised in remote places. The right, nevertheless, to have such a business restrained is not absolute and unlimited, but is, and must be in the nature of things, subject to reasonable limitations which have regard to the rights of others not less than to the general public welfare.


The homeowner's house was located on a city street containing several manufacturing businesses. The mill took possession of the adjoining property and put in fixtures and machinery to run a steam flouring-mill. Over a year after the mill began to operate, the homeowner filed a bill for a perpetual injunction. The trial court dismissed the bill, and the homeowner appealed. The court affirmed, holding that the mill's business was not objectionable and the homeowner had no special ground for complaint. Although the mill caused annoyance to the homeowner and his family and rendered the occupation of his building as a residence less desirable, the evidence did not support any finding that the mill exercised any want of due care or willful disregard of the rights of its neighbors.


Is the complainant, in consequence of the annoyance, which the business of the defendants caused him, entitled to have that business enjoined?




In the case before us we find that the defendants are carrying on a business not calculated to be specially annoying, except to the occupants of dwellings. They chose for its establishment a locality where all the buildings had been constructed for purposes other than for residence. Families, to some extent,  occupied these buildings,  but their occupation was secondary to the main object of their construction, and we must suppose that it was generally for reasons which precluded the choice of a more desirable neighborhood. The number of these families, moreover, was decreasing, and in view of the size of the block, was really insignificant at the time this machinery was put in. Some kinds of business were then carried on in the block, which were likely to be equally offensive to adjoining proprietors with that of the defendants, and it is not shown that any complaint was made of them. In view of these facts we think it is not shown that the defendants were bound to know they were invading the legal rights of other persons when they established their present business, nor can we say that the evidence satisfies us that they selected an unsuitable locality for the purpose.

Thus, the complainant, having taken up his residence in a portion of the city mainly appropriated to business purposes, cannot complain of the establishment of any new business near him, provided such new business is not in itself objectionable as compared with those already established, and is carried on in a proper manner. We do not find from the evidence that the business of defendants was thus objectionable, or that in the manner of conducting it there is special ground of complaint. And the decree dismissing the bill must, therefore, be affirmed with costs. But the dismissal is to be without prejudice to any proceeding the complainant may be advised to  take at law.

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