24 Hous. L. Rev. 27 (1987)
Environmental Liability and the Tort System

handle is hein.journals/hulr24 and id is 39 raw text is: PAPER
ENVIRONMENTAL LIABILITY AND THE
TORT SYSTEM
Robert L. Rabin*
I. INTRODUCTION
William Aldred was not amused when his neighbor, Thomas
Benton, decided to build a pig sty next door. Not only was the
stench disgusting, but the structure was so obtrusive that it actu-
ally blocked the sunlight coming in through Aldred's window. Al-
dred proceeded to sue, a well-established means of recourse even
then, in a case of interference with environmental amenities. The
year was 1611.1
Over the ensuing centuries, an extensive body of case law has
developed involving similar situations of interference with the use
and enjoyment of land. The theory of liability came to be known as
the law of private nuisance, and its parameters define the tradi-
tional boundaries of tort recovery for environmental harm.2 It
stubbornly resists extinction in modern cases like Boomer v. Atlan-
tic Cement Co.,3 where the New York Court of Appeals relied on
an updated version of strict liability to award aggrieved homeown-
ers damages for dust and vibration from a neighboring cement
plant.
Despite the avid attention that academics pay to Boomer-it
is one of a chosen few cases that students seem to encounter in
* Copyright 1986 by Robert L. Rabin, all rights reserved. A. Calder MacKay Professor
of Law, Stanford Law School; B.S. 1960, Northwestern University;, J.D. 1963, Northwestern
University;, Ph.D. 1967, Northwestern University.
1. William Aldred's case, 77 Eng. Rep. 816 (1611).
2. See generally IV. KEarTON, D. DOBBS. R. KaarON & D. OwarE, PROSSER & KEroN ON
ToRm 619-43 (5th ed. 1984) (discussing the history and basic principles of the law of
nuisance).
3. 26 N.Y.2d 219, 257 N.E.2d 870, 309 N.Y.S.2d 312 (1970).

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