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State v. H. Samuels Company, Inc.

211 N.W.2d 417 (1973)

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State v. H. Samuels Company, Inc.

Wisconsin Supreme Court

211 N.W.2d 417 (1973)

Facts

H. Samuels Company, Inc. (Samuels) (defendant) long operated a salvage business in the city of Portage (the city) in a location zoned for heavy industrial. Residential, single-family homes were next to Samuels, but other heavy industrial plants were also in the area. Samuels’ salvage business involved dropping pieces of sheet metal from a magnetized crane into a steel guillotine, dropping cars four feet onto large pieces of steel, and hammering metal into drums. Samuels attempted to reduce the noise it produced by putting silencers on its cranes and reducing some operations. Nonetheless, area residents experienced shaking windows, furniture, and frames because of the vibrations caused by Samuels. Residents suffered a loss of sleep, domestic discord, the inability to use their outdoor areas, and the costs of renovations to block the noise. Some residents postponed remodeling or moved from the neighborhood. However, complaints to police about the noise primarily came from only one or two residents. A city ordinance limited the maximum noise and vibrations that could be emitted. The state of Wisconsin (the state) (plaintiff) engaged two experts to measure the noise. The experts found that Samuels exceeded the maximum noise permitted by the ordinance for heavy industrial many times, and that Samuels’s vibrations also violated the statute. The city never brought criminal charges against Samuel for violating the noise ordinance. Instead, the state sought an injunction enjoining Samuels from violating the city ordinance as to noise and vibration from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m. each day. The trial court denied the injunction, explaining that the city should first be required to prosecute Samuels for violations of the noise ordinance and noting that Samuels had been operating in the area for many years and had taken steps to decrease the noise it produced. The city appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Hallows, C.J.)

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