Appellate Court Upholds Fact-Based Determination of Nuisance

Neighbor Issues by Simon Offord, Esq.

In the recent case of Mendez v. Rancho Valencia Resort Partners, LLC, the appellate court analyzed whether certain noise constituted a nuisance.

The Mendezes (“Neighbor”) filed suit, claiming Rancho Valencia’s (“the Resort”) outdoor festivities constituted a private nuisance.  The Trial Court ruled in favor of the Resort, determining the noise levels were not “substantial and unreasonable.”  The Trial Court made a point to highlight the fact that the Neighbor did not make substantial efforts to resolve the issue either directly with the Resort or through the County administrative procedures, putting the Trial Court in a position to “draw a line in the sand” which can oftentimes be a less desirable result.

The Appellate Court affirmed the Trial Court’s decision.  The Appellate Court emphasized that the harm suffered by the Neighbor needed to be “substantial” and “unreasonable…of such nature, duration or amount as to constitute unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of the land.”

Thus, whether something constitutes a nuisance is clearly a heavily fact-based inquiry.  The Appellate Court went into a detailed review of the local zoning ordinances, but ultimately, the Appellate Court seemed to defer to the Trial Court’s findings based on its review of the facts and testimony at trial.

Ultimately, this case does not give us any new, bright-line standards.  Instead, it confirms that determining whether something is a nuisance is a heavily fact-dependent analysis that is difficult to forecast.  One judge one day could deem something to be a substantial interference and another judge another day could disagree.  This emphasizes the importance of trying to resolve these type of disputes informally, as some sort of compromised position is much more manageable than losing in an all-or-nothing decision.

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