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McCarty v. Natural Carbonic Gas Co.

New York Court of Appeals
81 N.E. 549 (1907)


Facts

McCarty (plaintiff) owned a home in the village of Saratoga Springs. The home was located in a country district suitable for country homes, although no other landowners had built homes in the area. Several years after McCarty purchased the home, Natural Carbonic Gas Co. (Natural Carbonic) (defendant) constructed a factory nearby that manufactured carbonic acid gas in a semi-fluid form. The carbonic acid gas is made by compressing natural gas found on the property, using machinery operated by steam. To generate the steam, the factory burns soft coal and, as a result, emits thick, black smoke from two smokestacks. Depending on the wind, the smoke sometimes enveloped McCarty’s home and has caused the exterior of his home to become discolored with soot. The rental value of McCarty’s home has decreased by $800 because of the smoke. A competitor also has a similar factory in the area, but that factory does not emit the same type of smoke because the factory uses anthracite coal. Natural Carbonic could have used anthracite coal and avoided the smoke as well, but anthracite coal is more expensive than soft coal. McCarty sued Natural Carbonic, alleging nuisance and seeking damages and an injunction against emitting the damaging smoke. The trial court determined that Natural Carbonic’s use of its property was not reasonable and awarded damages and an injunction to McCarty. The court of appeals affirmed, with a minor modification to the amount of damages. Natural Carbonic appealed to the New York Court of Appeals.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Vann, J.)

Dissent (O’Brien, J.)

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