Sher v. Leiderman

181 Cal.App.3d 867 (1986)

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Sher v. Leiderman

California Court of Appeal
181 Cal.App.3d 867 (1986)

Facts

Rudolph and Bonnie Sher (plaintiffs) lived next door to P. Herbert and Gloria Leiderman (defendants) on Stanford University’s campus in California. The Shers’ home was a passive solar home with many south-facing windows designed to utilize the sun for heat and light in the winter. The Shers’ home contained no active solar collectors or solar panels. When the Shers and Leidermans designed and built their homes, no trees existed on either of their lots. Over the years, however, the Leidermans planted many trees on their property to beautify the property and attract wildlife. Eventually, the trees grew so tall that they completely blocked the sunlight to the Shers’ home during winter. The Leidermans refused to trim the trees or allow the Shers to trim them. The Shers’ home became extremely dark and dreary, the home’s thermal performance suffered, and the home lost between $15,000 and $45,000 in market value. The Shers brought a nuisance action against the Leidermans in California state court, alleging that the Leidermans’ trees blocked the Shers’ access to sunlight. Following a trial, the court found in the Leidermans’ favor. The court concluded that the Shers were essentially seeking a permanent easement on the Leidermans’ property for light to pass to the Shers’ property, which was not permissible under California law. The Shers had also sought relief under California’s Solar Shade Control Act (the act), which allowed the owner of a “solar collector” to pursue a remedy against a neighboring property owner who had allowed trees to grow on the property in such a way that the trees cast a shadow covering more than 10 percent of the solar collector during certain daytime hours. However, the court determined that the act was inapplicable because the Shers’ home was an exclusively passive solar home with no active solar collectors. The court entered judgment for the Leidermans, and the Shers appealed. On appeal, the Shers asserted that their windows and skylights should be considered solar collectors for purposes of the act.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Brauer, J.)

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