ERIK WEST, KATHLEEN WEST, JOHN PRIDE, and JO ANN PRIDE, Plaintiffs,
JEWETT & NOONAN TRANSPORTATION, INC., Defendant.
ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S POST-JUDGMENT
Jewett & Noonan Transportation, Inc. has filed a Renewal
of Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law After Trial
Pursuant to Rule 50(b) and also a Motion for New Trial
Pursuant to Rule 59(a), or for Remittitur or to Amend/Alter
Judgment. Both motions are opposed by Plaintiffs, and the
Defendant has filed a reply memorandum in support of both
court elects to decide both motions without oral argument.
See M.R. Civ. P. 7(b)(7). For the reasons set forth
below, both motions are denied.
for Judgment as a Matter of Law
renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law contends that
the law required Plaintiffs to present evidence of diminution
in the market value of their property for purposes of their
nuisance claim and that they failed to do so. Defendant
relies on the Law Court decisions in Johnson v. Maine
Energy Recovery Co., Ltd., 2010 ME 52, 997 A.2d 741, and
Charlton v. Town of Oxford, 2001 ME 104, 774 A.2d
motion presents a question of law initially, and then a mixed
question of fact and law.
pure legal question is whether a nuisance plaintiff must
present direct, quantified evidence of diminution in market
value, i.e. dollar figures reflecting before and after market
values, presumably through an expert appraiser or other
expert, to prove the substantial interference element of a
common law nuisance claim. This court answers that question
in the negative-meaning that in appropriate cases, the jury
may infer a diminution in market value caused by a nuisance,
when the plaintiff presents evidence, as the Plaintiffs did
in this case, that the nuisance prevents potential
development of a property.
mixed question is whether the evidence in this case was
sufficient to enable the jury to find that the spilled oil
substantially interfered with Plaintiffs' use and
enjoyment of their property, causing a diminution in the
value of the property. The court's answer is that the
evidence was sufficient.
case, Plaintiffs sought damages measured by the cost of
remediation of the nuisance rather than damages measured by
the diminution in value of their property. They did not
present any expert appraisal evidence quantifying the market
value of their property before and after the oil spill.
However, they did present evidence that the continued
presence of spilled oil on their property was preventing them
from pursuing their plan to develop the property into
separate residential lots.
court does not interpret Charlton and
Johnston decision to require expert appraisal
evidence of the before and after market value of the affected
property to be presented in every case. The Charlton
decision adopts the Prosser treatise's formulation of the
elements of common law nuisance, including the element of
(3) The interference that resulted and the physical harm, if
any, from that interference proved to be substantial. . .
The substantial interference requirement is to satisfy
the need for a showing that the land is reduced in value
because of the defendant's conduct;
Charlton v. Town of Oxford, 2001 ME 104 at ¶36,
774 A.2d at 377, quoting W. Page Keeton et al.,
PROSSER AND KEETON ON THE LAW OF TORTS § 87 at 622-23
(5th ed. 1984).
other words, a nuisance plaintiff can satisfy the requirement
that the nuisance be shown to have reduced the value of the
property by proving substantial interference with the
plaintiffs use and enjoyment (and development) of the
property affected. In a footnote, the court quoted the same
treatise to explain further:
"[W]hen defendant's conduct involves mere physical
discomfort or mental annoyance, there is somewhat more
difficulty in deciding when the interference is substantial
and unreasonable justifying a recovery for damages. Probably
a good working rule would be that the annoyance cannot amount
to unreasonable interference until ...