WA Supreme Court: Failure to Obtain Permit Does Not Make Business a Nuisance Per Se
Under the law, people’s use of their land can’t generally interfere with your use and enjoyment of your land. If it is, you bring an action in what is called “nuisance,” to get them to stop the activity or pay you damages. Remember the thing with the Sriracha manufacturing plant in California? That was a nuisance case.
Here, the trial court found that the outboard service company was not a nuisance. Moore argued essentially that where you don’t have the proper permits, it is always a nuisance, and you don’t have to prove it was an actual nuisance.
The supreme court disagreed. It said certain things can be made nuisances all the time by the legislature. But simply not having a permit doesn’t convert something that wasn’t a nuisance into a nuisance. The case cited by the court of appeals, Tiegs I, held that if a statute prohibits the thing you’re doing, then its automatically a nuisance. The court of appeals took it to mean generally operating a business without the proper permitting. The supreme court held it back and said, essentially, no. If a statute prohibits fumes, or the other things associated with this business directly, that is one thing.
In contrast, in the case before us, the "condition" giving rise to the alleged nuisance was the noise, fumes, and traffic associated with the boat repair and maintenance operation, not the failure to obtain a permit.