January 13, 2017 | Supreme Court Reviews

Vermont Supreme Court Bars Nuisance Actions Based on Aesthetics

In Myrick v. Peck Elec. Co., 2017 VT 4 (Jan. 13, 2017), the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of solar companies, in aesthetics-based nuisance suit against them.

Issue: Neighbors of a group of landowners leased real estate to solar companies for the purpose of constructing commercial solar arrays.  The group of landowners then sued the solar companies, arguing that the solar arrays constitute a private nuisance because they have negatively affected the surrounding area's rural aesthetic, causing properties in their vicinity to lose value.  The trial granted summary judgment to the solar companies.  The landowners appealed. 

Holding: The Supreme Court upheld Vermont's long-standing rule barring private nuisance actions based on aesthetic disapproval, even if accompanied by a diminution in property value, citing Hager, an 1896 case.  Aesthetic interference is neither unreasonable nor substantial; it is more akin to emotional distress than interference with use of property; it generally cannot be adequately measured; and it opens up the “converse mischief” of enabling homeowners to prevent their neighbors from construction deemed unattractive.