In 2006, a utility company constructed a new plant for the generation of electricity. The plant burns lignite, a low grade fuel which is available in large quantities.
Although the plant was constructed in accordance with the best practicable technology, the plant emits a substantial quantity of invisible fumes. The only way the utility company can reduce the fumes is by the use of scrubbing equipment that would cost $50,000,000 to install and would increase the retail price of generated electricity by 50 percent while reducing the volume of fumes by only 20 percent. Because of the expense of such equipment and its relative ineffectiveness, no other generating plants burning lignite use such equipment.
The plant was located in a sparsely settled rural area, remote from the large city served by the utility company. A farmer owned a farm adjacent to the plant.
The farmer’s hay fever, from which he had long suffered, became worse in 2006. Physicians advised him that the lignite fumes were affecting it and that serious lung disease would soon result unless he moved away from the plant. He did so, selling his farm at its reasonable market value, which was then $10,000 less than before the construction of the plant.
If the farmer asserts a claim based on nuisance against the utility company for damages for personal injuries, will the farmer prevail?
A. No, because there is no practicable way for the utility company to reduce the fumes.
B. No, because the utility company's acts constituted a public nuisance.
C. Yes, because the farmer's personal injuries were within the scope of the liability imposed on the utility company.
D. Yes, because the generation of electricity is an ultra-hazardous activity.
Incorrect: Answer choice C is correct. A private nuisance is a substantial and unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of another individual’s land. The conduct is considered unreasonable if its utility does not outweigh the gravity of the injury produced. If the farmer’s personal injuries are within the scope of liability, he will prevail. Answer choice A is incorrect because, even if there is no practical way to reduce the fumes, it does not absolve the utility company from liability where its acts create an unreasonable interference. Answer choice B is incorrect because the above fact pattern does not establish a public nuisance, which generally deals with an unreasonable interference with a right common to the general public. Answer choice D is incorrect because even if the activity is ultra-hazardous, its ultra-hazardous nature alone does not establish a nuisance.
I said answer A was correct. The explanation says that "Answer choice A is incorrect because, even if there is no practical way to reduce the fumes, it does not absolve the utility company from liability where its acts create an unreasonable interference."
I guess I'm misunderstanding the definition of reasonable and unreasonable here. Based on the facts (i.e., 50 million scrubbing equipment, increasing price of energy by 50%) is seems to me that given the very minor imposition on the farmer the interference seems pretty reasonable. The only thing I see weighing in the farmer's favor here is that the fact pattern suggests that he had lived there before the power plant set up shop.