SW Legal studies in Business

Vibrations from Pile Driving Not a Tort
Description

Appeals court held that the vibrations over a one year period caused by pile driving at a construction site did not impose strict liability on the builder nor did it cause a nuisance. The builder acted in a reasonable manner, so there was no tort.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Strict Liability; Abnormally Dangerous Activity; Nuisance; Pile Driving

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Pierhomes was developing waterfront property. It constructed new piers by driving piles into the Baltimore harbor and built 58 new townhomes on the piers. The Army Corps of Engineers approved the piers as it would not allow fill to be dumped in the harbor as footing for the houses. The piers were put in by pile driving over a one-year period. Monitors were used to measure the shocks from the pile driving to be sure the vibrations met engineering standards. Gallagher claimed that the pile driving caused cracks in the walls in her home, which was located 300 feet from the construction. The jury found in her favor, holding that the pile driving was a public and a private nuisance that caused the cracks and awarded $55,189 in damages. The trial judge granted defendant judgment notwithstanding the verdict on all claims. Gallagher appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. Maryland recognizes strict liability that results from abnormally dangerous activity. If one engages in abnormally dangerous activity, and harm results, liability is imposed even though all possible care was taken to prevent harm. Pile driving in a harbor is not an abnormally dangerous activity that gives rise to strict liability. Hence, liability would be imposed for negligence, but since the activity was carried out in a proper manner, there was no negligence. The pile driving did not create a nuisance; it was a necessary activity that was done in a reasonable manner and did not injure the rights of the public or Gallagher.

Citation

Gallagher v. H.V. Pierhomes, LLC, ---A.2d--- (2008 WL 4415227, Ct. App., Mary., 2008)

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