Nuisance claims are a bit of a muddled area of Texas law. As Justice Boyd stated in the opinion: “This is a nuisance case, but that does not tell you much. As a legal concept, the word nuisance ‘has meant all things to all people.’ ” Because of the confusion, in a recent case the Texas Supreme Court articulated the standard for a landowner who wants to assert a noise-nuisance claim in Texas. The case is Crosstex North Texas Pipeline L.P. v. Andrew and Shannon Gardiner. In its opinion, the Texas Supreme Court noted that a nuisance is a particular legal injury that occurs where a landowner’s use or enjoyment of their land is interfered with by another party. The party could be a neighbor or an easement holder using the land. Nuisances often take the form of noise, vibrations, overpowering smells and other conditions that impede or inhibit a person from enjoying their property.
In this case, Crosstex North Texas Pipeline obtained an easement from the Gardiners and then built and operated a gas compressor station on the easement on a neighboring property. The compressor station included four diesel engines that were each “bigger than mobile homes.” Witnesses described the sound as similar to a jet engine. At least one of the engines runs continuously all day and night. Crosstex implemented a variety of other sound reduction and mitigation measures to stop the travel of sound, such as building walls around the compressor and planting vegetation around the compressor. However, the Gardiners claimed that the sound level was still unacceptable and that it interfered with the use and enjoyment of their property. The Gardiners sued on a noise nuisance claim. The jury awarded them $2,000,000 for dimunition in value of their ranch because of the compressor station.
The Court confirmed that Texas precedent characterizes a nuisance, not as an invasion of an interest but as a condition that substantially interferes with the use and enjoyment of land by causing