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Greater Westchester Homeowners' Ass'n v. Los Angeles, City of

ELR Citation: 6 ELR 20051
Nos. No. C 931 989, 8 ERC 1406/(Cal. Super. Ct., 09/30/1975)

After recovering damages for diminution of property value, plaintiff homeowners and family members residing adjacent to L.A. Airport's North Runways here seek nuisance damages for mental and emotional distress caused by jet aircraft noise. Under California Civil Code §3479, nuisance applies to aircraft noise cases. Nestle v. City of Santa Monica, 6 Cal. 3d 920, 101 Cal. Rptr. 568 (1972). Civil Code §3482, which immunizes actions done under "express statutory authority," does not bar a finding of nuisance here, for the applicable state and federal statutes do not purport to authorize the specific manner in which jets landing and taking off cause excessive noise over plaintiffs' homes. Recovery may be had for property owner annoyance and discomfort even absent physical illness. Such nuisance personal injury recovery is authorized over and above damages for diminution in market value of affected property. Kornoff v. Kingsburg Cotton Oil Co., 45 Cal. 2d 265, 288 P.2d 507 (1955). In determining whether the noise from jet aircraft use of the North Runways constitutes a nuisance to plaintiffs, the court and jury toured the affected area and also considered both plaintiffs' and defendants' composite rating of cumulative perceived and absolute noise levels. This evidence satisfies the court that jet noise does constitute a nuisance as to most plaintiffs. It is of such duration, intensity and obnoxious character as to be injurious to health, and is offensive to the senses to such an extent as to interfere with comfortable enjoyment of them property. Those plaintiffs who moved into the area following commencement of jet flights are not barred from recovery, for assumption of risk is no defense to a nuisance action. Williams v. Blue Bird Laundry Co., 85 Cal. App. 388, 259 P. 484 (Ct. App. 1927). As to those plaintiffs who continue to reside near the runways, the nuisance is of a continuing nature, Nestle, supra. The present recovery thus will not bar their future claims for continuing emotional and mental distress. The specific damages ordered to be awarded to particular plaintiffs are based on the location of their property, measured noise levels, and period of exposure to the nuisance.

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (28 pp. $3.50, ELR Order No. C-1001).

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Jerrold A. Faden
Faden, Berger & McIntire
8383 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 210
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(213) 651-3372

Greenwald, Landrum & Bain
6300 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1200
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(213) 653-3970

Counsel for Defendants
Lawrence O. de Coster
Chase, Rotchford, Drukker & Bogust
606 South Olive St.
Los Angeles, CA 90014
(213) 626-8711

Burt Pines, City Attorney
James H. Pearson, Asst. City Attorney
1 World Way
Los Angeles, CA 90009
(213) 646-3260

Jefferson, J.