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Robinson v Kilvert [1889] 41 Ch D 88

Nuisance – Sensitivity of the Claimant

Facts

The defendants operated a factory which made paper boxes.  This required the factory to be continually warm and dry to ensure that the paper boxes were in good condition.  The claimant rented the ground floor and used this area to store special brown paper.  The heat from the defendant’s factory damaged this brown paper, which was unusually sensitive to heat, and the claimant sued in nuisance.

Issues

Whether it was a defence to say that the claimants brown paper was unusually sensitive to heat.  Whether or not there was a nuisance because of the damage to the brown paper, when ordinary paper would not have been damaged by the conditions.  Whether the fact that the defendant’s acts would not have harmed anything other than special brown paper was relevant.

Held

The claim was dismissed as there was no nuisance.  The conditions in the factory were not particularly unusual, and the claimant’s operation of the factory in these conditions was not unlawful.  The defendants had acted as reasonable tenants of their property.  It had been shown that the heat from the factory would not have damaged ordinary paper.  Instead the defendant’s brown paper happened to be unusually sensitive to the heat, and it was this which caused the damage rather than anything that the defendants had done wrong.  Accordingly, this could not be considered a nuisance caused by the defendants.  Where one carries on an unusually delicate trade, they cannot then complain because they are injured by the defendant’s carrying on their lawful business on their property if this would not have injured anything but an unusually delicate trade.             


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