Vanderbilt Law Review


G. H. Kemker

First Page



The problems of the reciprocal use and enjoyment of property by adjacent landowners have become increasingly pronounced in our time of intense urbanization. Salient has been the problem of noise nuisances which frequently result when adjacent property is devoted to the inconsistent uses of industry and residence ownership. This conflict is often a serious one. The enjoyment by the residence owner of his property may be considerably impaired; the abatement of the noise may be at the price of loss of productivity, considerable expense or of not conducting the business at all.' The resulting situation is one which requires a most careful balancing of equities.

There are certain basic legal distinctions or classifications in the law of nuisance which afford the courts some aid in dealing with'the problem of noise nuisances. Nuisances are characterized as public or private; they may or may not be nuisances per se or they may be defined by statute. By focusing attention upon the particular activity complained of the court may discern such further distinctions as that the invasion of the plaintiff's interest is negligent, or intentional, or that the defendant is engaged in ultra-hazardous activity. Further, the courts may grant damages if injunctive relief would work hardship. The judicial resolution of the conflicting interests in nuisances cases has been little aided, however, by such legal analyses; the courts are required to reach an equitable result in differing fact situations of varying and interdependent elements. The purpose of this note is to present the various elements given consideration in noise nuisance cases. It is emphasized that an atomized approach belies somewhat the true import of the various elements. They are necessarily related and given a gestalt effect in a particular case. The authority employed will, so far as possible, be limited to cases where the noise of a commercial enterprise was the sole or principal interference involved.