by Tiffany Dowell Lashmet
A nuisance is defined as a “condition that substan tially interferes with the use and enjoyment of land by causing unreasonable discomfort or annoyance to persons of ordinary sensibilities.” Generally, nuisance lawsuits involve invasion of a plaintiff’s property by light, sound, odor, or other foreign sub stance. For example, nui sance claims have arisen related to odors from a neighboring feedlot and noise from a propane can non shot off in a grain field to deter feral hogs.
Rankin v. FPL Energy, LLC
The leading case on this issue occurred here in Texas, decided by the Eastland Court of Appeals in 2009. In Rankin v. FPL Energy, LLC, neighbors of the Horse Hollow Wind Farm in Taylor County filed a lawsuit against the farm claiming it constitut ed a nuisance. The plain tiffs’ key claim was that
The court rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that the aesthetic impact cre ated a nuisance. Although the court recognized the wind farm’s impact on the view and the emo tional reaction this could cause, it simply did not constitute a nuisance. Texas case law limits a nuisance action “when the challenged activity is lawful to instances in which the activity results in some invasion of the plaintiff’s property and by not allowing recovery for emotional reaction alone.” Thus, Texas courts do not provide a nuisance action for damage to aes thetic impact.
This case is a good reminder that the nui sance doctrine exists and is something all landown ers should know about. Generally, a person has the right to do what he or she wants on his or her own property, but that right could be limited in the event that it substan tially interferes with oth ers’ use and enjoyment of their property.
The fact that Texas
When negotiating a wind lease (or a solar lease), a landowner may want to seek indemnity from the company in the event this type of lawsuit is filed and the landowner is named as a defendant as well. As we see addi tional wind farms being built, particularly near more urban areas, the chances of a nuisance lawsuit being filed will likely increase and a land owner could potentially be named as a defendant in this type of case.
TIFFANY DOWELL LASHMET
is assistant professor and extension specialist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. She specializes in agricultural law and blogs about legal issues related to Texas land at agrilife. org/texasaglaw.