Natural Nuisances: Mother Nature Isn’t Liable, You Are!

Natural Nuisances - Mother Nature Isn’t Liable, You Are


Our firm recently obtained a pair of related victories: We first won the trial, then won the appeal.

In this case, a neighboring shopping center’s negligent maintenance of their property’s Japanese Knotweed—a noxious weed that dominates all the plant life on a property if allowed to proliferate—resulted in damage to our client’s property. The shopping center failed to properly contain the Knotweed as required by appropriate standards. By the time the case went to trial, the Japanese Knotweed completely covered major portions of our clients’ property, choking out all other plant life.

In a lawsuit for negligence and nuisance, our trial partner, Matthew Conroy, obtained a jury verdict finding the shopping center 100% at fault. Mr. Conroy then got the jury to award our clients $535,000 in damages.

After losing both aspects of the trial, the defendants appealed. Their first appeal claimed that the entire case needed to be thrown out because the shopping center was not at fault, and it was impossible for the jury to award such a large amount of damages based upon the evidence presented to them.

Their second appeal argued that, because our clients abandoned the property at some point during the case, they no longer suffered any damages. This trial court had rejected this argument separately from the trial, yet the defendants nevertheless appealed this too.

The appeals court (Appellate Division, Second Department) agreed with our arguments and upheld our clients’ victory in all respects. Click here to read the decision of the appeals court. 

As a result, our clients were awarded judgment for $535,000, plus interest at 9% under New York law, for a period of nearly three years—a tremendous outcome for them, after a long fight with a corporate defendant, and their insurance company, who refused to settle or admit to illegal conduct.

This victory highlights the fact that, while you may not be responsible for the creation of a natural nuisance occurring on your land, you are responsible if you choose to manage or maintain that problem, especially if it causes a nuisance on a neighbor’s property.  It also highlights the need to have a competent and tenacious legal team on your side—a team who won’t give up and will fight to the end on your behalf.


Evan S. Schwartz
Founder of Schwartz, Conroy & Hack