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  • Gary Mauney

North Carolina nuisance lawsuits protect landowner's rights.

When coal ash, or fumes from a factory or farm, infringe on your right to use and enjoy your property, you may be able to sue for damages.

Home and land ownership are part of the American Dream. A big part of that dream is the expectation that your neighbor should not do anything unreasonable that harms the value of your property. Unfortunately, though, we do not always have good neighbors. Over the last two decades, landowners in North Carolina have been forced to file lawsuits against polluters who have harmed their land. These types of lawsuits are called "nuisance lawsuits." The word "nuisance" means that someone has infringed on your property rights by doing something unreasonable, such as pollute your water, push dirty run-off into your land, cast an unbearable smell into your home, or create an unsafe condition on their land that affects you and your children.


Recently, for instance, neighbors of hog farmers in the eastern part of North Carolina have successfully sued "animal feeding operations," meaning the companies that run hog farms, over the stench and noise and safety problems emanating from those farms onto the land of nearby private landowners. One group of these hog farm nuisance lawsuits has made its way to a major federal appeals court http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2020/02/03/a-federal-appeals-court-judges-remarkable-speech-is-the-latest-surprise-in-ncs-hog-nuisance-lawsuits. “What troubled me as I looked at the [landowners'] complaint and at trial [transcripts],” 4th Circuit Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III said, is that, “Yes, the hog farming certainly provides many jobs in eastern North Carolina. It’s important to the economy and national food supply. But it’s harmful to the people who live nearby. It’s got to be environmental harmful to the waterways. Nobody wants another Flint, Michigan. It can’t be good for children’s respiratory systems.”


Another similar spate of North Carolina nuisance litigation has taken place over Duke power's coal ash ponds in various locations across North Carolina. Families affected by Duke Power's coal ash received “do not drink” letters, accompanied by supplies of bottled water for bathing and drinking purposes. Families were rightfully outraged and scared. “North Carolina’s communities have lived with the threat of coal ash pollution for too long. They can now be certain that the clean-up of the last coal ash impoundments in our state will begin this year,” said North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael S. Regan in a prepared statement. “We are holding Duke accountable and will continue to hold them accountable for their actions as we protect public health, the environment and our natural resources.” According to reporting on this issue, Duke has promised, through a legal settlement, to excavate 80 million tons of coal ask from its remaining impoundments. http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2020/01/02/deq-duke-energy-community-groups-strike-deal-on-largest-coal-ash-cleanup-in-us.


But there remain countless polluters in North Carolina that are harming their neighbors. If you are a landowner being harmed by the conduct of an "unneighborly" neighbor next door, such as a polluter damaging the value of your property, you may have recourse through the court system. Charlotte attorney Gary Mauney of Mauney PLLC can help you evaluate whether you have a nuisance case. If you would like to have your case evaluated by an attorney, contact us at info@mauneypllc.com.