Private nuisances can be permanent or temporary in nature. A nuisance can result from odors, pests, noise or another type of property right infringement. California law has long recognized a property owner's right to bring a private nuisance claim to protect individual property rights. Our Los Angeles Real Estate Attorneys were recently asked to discuss the damages allowed by law for nuisance related claims where the nuisance complained of is not permanent in nature but continuing. The law generally allows for (1) loss of value; (2) discomfort, annoyance and distress; and (3) exemplary damages where proven.
Loss of value - Loss of use is a recognized measure of continuing nuisance damages. See Shamsian v. Atlantic Richfield Co., (2003) 107 Cal.App.4th 967, 982; see also Cal. Civ. Code § 3479. The measure of damages for the loss of use is the difference in the rental or use value of the premises before and after the injury caused by the nuisance. See Qualls v. Smyth, (1957) 148 Cal. App. 2d 635, 638; see also Ingram v. City of Gridley, (1950) 100 Cal. App. 2d 815, 821 (“Loss of rental value is not a part of the damages recoverable where there was permanent injury to the land itself. But where the property is not directly affected or depreciated by physical injury, but the value of its use only is affected, it has been held that the measure of damages is the depreciation in the rental value of the property.”)
Annoyance & Discomfort - Damages for discomfort, annoyance, and mental distress suffered by the plaintiff as the result of a nuisance are recoverable, but not merely as an alternative to or to the exclusion of damages for depreciation of the plaintiff's property in rental value. See Spaulding v. Cameron, (1954) 127 Cal. App. 2d 698, 706. Annoyance and discomfort damages are intended to compensate a plaintiff for the loss of his or her peaceful occupation and enjoyment of the property. The annoyance and discomfort for which damages may be recovered on nuisance claims generally refers to distress arising out of physical discomfort, irritation, or inconvenience caused by odors, pests, noise, and the like. See Kelly v. CB&I Constructors, Inc., (2009) 179 Cal. App. 4th 442, 456-57.
Exemplary Damages - When the facts warrant it, exemplary or punitive damages may be recovered in a nuisance case. See Hassoldt v. Patrick Media Group, Inc., (2000) 84 Cal. App. 4th 153, 168.