Hunter v Canary Wharf (1997): private nuisance

Areas of applicable law: Tort law – Nuisance – Private nuisance.

Main arguments in the case: Only those who have proprietary interest in land can sue in tort of nuisance. An interference that affects “a thing of delight” cannot be an interference.

The fact of the case: The claimants were living in Dockland part of East London and the issues arose when a tower block was constructed at Canary Wharf. The claimant argued that excessive dust from the construction site was causing damage to their properties and brought an action for negligence. The claimants were mixed bunch of people as some of them were the property owners, some of them were tenants, occupiers and the rest consisted of lodgers, spouses and children.

The second issue that the claimant brought before the court was the interference that they were having with their TV signals which was potentially caused by the newly constructed 250 meters tall “Canary Wharf tower”.

The court decided that only those who had proprietary interest in the land, such as the owners or persons who had exclusive possession rights, were able to bring an action in this instance under tort of nuisance. The rest of claimants including lodgers, children and spouses were not allowed to do so. Furthermore the Court of Appeal decided that interference to television signals did not amount to nuisance and that this type of recreational facility is rather a thing of delight and if affected cannot be deemed as an interference.

The court also decided that dust was part of the urban life and therefore it could not constitute negligence as it had not caused physical damage to the property. To prove that something has caused physical damage to the property it would be necessary to show that the damage has made the property less useful or has brought down its value.

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