Mink on the Loose in Pennsylvania: Nuisance

NeuwirthLawCase Matters

Minks are a nuisance? Hold my beer…

I love a good mink story. According to the New York Post, some animal activist released 6,000 mink from a mink farm in PA. I know next to nothing about mink or minks. What I do know is that mink farming forms the basis for one of the pivotal cases in nuisance law.

I always have a few nuisance cases in my case load because they are largely indefensible and fun to work on. I currently have cases in litigation against UGI, a big gas transporter and Energy Transfer or Sunoco’s successor for being a nuisance to the community. The UGI case alleges that it operates a compressor plant that runs 24/7 compressing natural gas in northern PA and destroyed my client’s family hunting grounds as bucolic places of refuge. Bucolic is a good word. In any event, the compressor plant is not moving and nor is my client.

So, back to the minks. In this law school case, a mink farmer sued a neighboring manufacturing plant for injury to his business. Apparently, mink are anxious creatures as you or I would be if we were prey or had a future as a coat. When exposed to loud noises, the mink refuse to mate and become useless to the farmer. The case went forward and the manufacturer could not just move their plant and the minks were not changing their behavior. This is a classic case that has to go to a jury. No settlement will really be possible. The mink owner won and the manufacturer appealed, but the mink owner ultimately prevailed. Presumably, the mink owner took the verdict money and moved elsewhere, but essentially, the manufacturer’s nuisance or noise had forced the mink farmer to move.  Classic nuisance.

The interesting thing about nuisance cases is that the noisy neighbor is not going to be enough to interest a lawyer in taking your case because there is simply not enough damage to make money for the client and the lawyer. In general, if the lawyer makes money but the client does not, the client will not be happy. I have a general rule that in settlements, I will not take more as a fee than the client gets in their pocket. I don’t know if this is routine or not, but there are situations where there is a large health care lien that has to be repaid or a large litigation expense that throws the settlement out of whack. Having a happy client is an important part of running a referral-based business. In every situation where I cut my fee, the client always thanks me and appreciates it.