Ensuring Texas lawyers have summer reading material, the Texas Supreme Court issued a 53-page opinion to restate and clarify the law of private nuisance in Texas. The case will be required authority for any brief or opinion concerning this area of the law, which has been variously described as a “morass,” a “garbage can,” and an “impenetrable jungle.”

Crosstex North Texas Pipeline, L.P. v. Gardiner
Supreme Court of Texas (June 24, 2016)
Opinion by Justice Boyd

The case arose from Crosstex’s constructing a natural gas compressor station on property adjacent to the Gardiners’ ranch, and the Gardiners’ dissatisfaction with the company’s efforts to mitigate the noise created by the compressor. The Supreme Court affirmed the appeals court’s holdings that there was legally sufficient, but factually insufficient, evidence to support the jury’s verdict awarding damages, and remanded the case to the trial court. The facts were the backdrop for the Court’s “attempt to provide a more comprehensive . . . explanation of the circumstances in which Texas law may hold a party liable for causing a private nuisance.”

The Court conducts an exhaustive review of its own precedents back to 1856, as well as different iterations of nuisance law by Deans Prosser and Keeton, successive Restatements, and other commentary and cases. Sooner or later you know you will have to read the opinion, so why not take it to the beach with you? But if you can’t wait for the denouement, here’s the crib sheet version: “[T]he term ‘nuisance’ refers not to a defendant’s conduct or to a legal claim or cause of action but to a type of legal injury involving interference with the use and enjoyment of real property. . . . [A] defendant can be liable for causing a nuisance if the defendant intentionally causes it, negligently causes it, or—in limited circumstances—causes it by engaging in abnormally dangerous or ultra-hazardous activities.”