Hollywood Silver Fox Farm v Emmett

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Hollywood Silver Fox Farm Ltd. v Emmett [1936] 2 KB 468

Private Nuisance – Unusual Sensitivity of the Claimant – Malice

Facts

The claimant bred silver foxes for their fur.  The foxes are, by their nature, of a timid disposition and are easily scared.  When they are scared they are liable to miscarry.  The defendant was a farmer and animal rights activist who owned land adjoining to the fox farm.  He objected to the carrying on of the farm and deliberately encouraged his son to fire his gun in order specifically to frighten the foxes and impair their ability to breed.  It was hoped that this would cause economic harm to the fox farm and cause them to end their operation.  The foxes miscarried and the claimant sued in private nuisance requesting an injunction to prevent this behaviour.

Issues

Whether there was an action capable of constituting a private nuisance considering the unusual sensitivity of the foxes.  Whether or not this unusual sensitivity was important considering the defendant’s intention to scare the foxes.

Held

The claim was successful.  The defendant’s actions did constitute a private nuisance even considering the unusual sensitivity of the claimant.  The foxes were unusually timid and sensitive to noise, but this case could be distinguished from Robinson v Kilvert [1889] 41 Ch D 88 because the defendant intentionally attempted to frighten the foxes through the firing of his gun on his own land.  This was done with the intention of impairing their ability to breed and to cause the fox farm economic loss as a result.  As it was intentional the defendant’s actions could, and did, constitute a private nuisance.  The injunction could be granted to restrain the defendant from firing guns on his own land because of this.

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