Spur Industries v. Del Webb Development Case Brief

Summary of Spur Industries v. Del Webb Development, S. Ct AZ [1972]

Nuisance-Rights of Neighbors

Relevant Facts: Del Webb, Pl is a developer of a residential area, Sun City. Df, Spur is a cattle feedlot near Phoenix AZ. In 1956 Spur’s predecessors began a feedlot near the present location. In 1959 Pl began the development of an urban area known as Sun City. 1960 ea of the parties began expansion projects. By year’s end Pl had completed or began 450 -500 houses, Df completed its expansion from 35 to 114 acres. In 1963 the feedlot became a problem to the residential community. Each of the expansion projects had brought the parties within 100 ft of each other. The flies, and smell rendered the last 1300 units uninhabitable.

Legal Issue(s): Whether the operation of a business lawfully, but then becomes a nuisance by the growth of a residential area, can be enjoined, and whether if enjoined the developer can be required to indemnify the operator of that business?

Court’s Holding: Enjoined and indemnify

Procedure: Trial ct enjoined Df from operating the feedlot; Df agreed to remain idle pending appeal; S. Ct affirmed injunction, and reversed and remanded for damages on indemnity.

Law or Rule(s): A private nuisance is one affecting a single individual or a definite small number of persons in the enjoyment of private rights not common to the public. A public nuisance affects the rights enjoyed by citizens as a part of the public and must affect a considerable number of people or an entire community or neighborhood.

Court Rationale: Where the injury is slight, the remedy for minor inconveniences lies in an action for damages rather than in one for an injunction. It would appear from the trial ct record that at most the residents would be entitled to damages rather than injunctive relief. It is clear that as to the citizens of Sun City, Spur’s operation was both a public and private nuisance. They could have successfully maintained an action to abate the nuisance.

The residential landowner may not have relief if he knowingly came into a neighborhood reserved for industrial or agricultural endeavors and has been damaged thereby. Pl is entitled to a permanent injunction, b/c of the damage to the people who have been encouraged to purchase homes in Sun City. Pl is not free of any liability to Df if Pl has in fact been the cause of the damage Spur has sustained. Pl must indemnify the Df for a reasonable amt of the cost of moving or shutting down. That is limited to a case where the developer has, w/ foreseeability, brought the population into a previous agricultural or industrial area.

Plaintiff’s Argument: Df’s business causes noxious odors and flies which harbor disease to visit the residential area, thereby causing 1300 units from being occupied.

Defendant’s Argument: Df’s business has been in existence prior to the creation of the residential area.

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