Private nuisances may be classified as nuisances per se or at law, and nuisances per accidens or in fact. A nuisance per se or at law is an act, occupation, or structure which is a nuisance at all times and under any circumstances, regardless of location or surroundings. Nuisances per accidens or in fact are those which become nuisances by reason of their location, or by reason of the manner in which they are constructed, maintained, or operated.
A couple living 1 mile from an oil refinery, advised the oil company that it created a nuisance in the neighbourhood by polluting the atmosphere and demanded that they forthwith put an end to the atmospheric pollution. The oil company continued its operation of the oil refinery. The couple filed a civil action to enjoin the oil company from continuing its operation of an oil refinery and temporary damages. The trial court found in their favor on the basis that the oil refinery was a private nuisance. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of North Carolina.
Was the decision proper?
The Supreme Court reversed and ordered a new trial for the oil company. The court found, that the couple had established an actionable nuisance claim at trial but in their complaint, the couple contended that the oil company was negligent and careless in constructing and operating the refinery. Because negligence and private nuisance were distinct fields of tort liability, the court found that the oil company was entitled to a new trial.