Prah had solar panels on his
home. Later, Maretti began building a home next door to Prah. Maretti's
home would have blocked the sun so Prah's solar panels wouldn't work.
Note that Prah built his
home only 10 feet away from the edge of his property, knowing that a
future next door neighbor might chose to build a house that could block
Prah sued Maretti in order to
force him to build his home further away from Prah's property line.
Prah argued that Maretti's
sun-blocking house was a nuisance.
Maretti argued that he could
do whatever he liked with his property.
Maretti agreed to move his
home some, but not enough to satisfy Prah.
Maretti wanted a view of
the lake, and if he moved it any further he couldn't see the lake.
The Trial Court found for Maretti
in summary judgment. Prah appealed.
The Trial Court found that
since Maretti's house conformed with zoning laws, there was no nuisance.
The Appellate Court reversed
and ordered a trial.
In the past, courts have
refused to consider blocking sunlight a nuisance. However, this was mainly due to the sunlight
was valued only for aesthetic enjoyment.
The Appellate Court weighed
the gravity of the harm against the utility costs. In specific, they
Gravity of Harm:
The extent of the harm
The character of the harm
The social value of that
the law attaches to the type of use or enjoyment invaded.
The suitability of the
particular use or enjoyment invaded to the character of the locality.
The burden on the person
harmed of avoiding the harm.
Utility of Conduct
The social value that the
law attaches to the primary purpose of the conduct.
The suitability of the
conduct to the character of the locality.
The impracticability of
preventing or avoiding the invasion.
The Court found that there
were questions of fact as to the gravity of harm vs. the utility costs.
These are questions for a jury to decide.
Does the encouragement of
solar power outweigh the harm to Maretti in not being able to see the
In a dissent, it was argued
that nuisance only occurs when the
act is intentional and unreasonable. Also, there is liability only to
those to whom it causes significant harm, the kind that would be suffered
by a normal person under reasonable circumstances.
Was it reasonable that Prah
wanted to use solar power? He could have switched to propane. Or, he
could have built his home on the other side of his lot and would have
avoided this problem.