SW Legal studies in Business

City's Use of Groundwater Subject to Reasonable Use Doctrine
Description Ohio appeals court held that a group of residents of a village could sue a nearby city for breach of the duty not to take an unreasonable amount of groundwater that would cause an injury to the quantity and quality of water available for those who use the same groundwater supply.
Topic Real and Personal Property
Key Words Water; Reasonable Use Doctrine; Negligence; Sovereign Immunity
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts The Village of Brady sued the City of Kent, Ohio, contending that the residents of Brady suffered harm through the lowering of the water table and the level of Brady Lake, which caused a decrease in water quality and quantity, due to actions of Kent. The trial court dismissed the suit, finding that the City of Kent was immune from liability due to the doctrine of sovereign immunity. The Village appealed.
Decision

Reversed. There is a cause of action for unreasonable use of, or interference with, groundwater. The reasonable-use doctrine holds that "A proprietor of land or his grantee who withdraws groundwater from the land and uses it for a beneficial purpose is not subject to liability for interference with the use of water by another, unless (a) the withdrawal of groundwater unreasonably causes harm to a proprietor of neighboring land through lowering the water table or reducing artesian pressure, (b) the withdrawal of ground water exceeds the proprietor's reasonable share of the annual supply or total store of groundwater, or (c) the withdrawal of the groundwater has a direct and substantial effect upon a watercourse or lake and unreasonably causes harm to a person entitled to the use of its water." A city is not protected by sovereign immunity if it breaches its duty by unreasonable withdrawal of groundwater, which is the same as negligence.

Citation Village of Brady v. City of Kent, 148 Ohio App.3d 429 (Ct. App., Ohio, 2002)

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