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Why Robinson v Kilvert is important

In Robinson v Kilvert, the Court considered the sensitivity of the claimant when deciding whether the defendant’s interference was unreasonable. Therefore, where the interference comes from the exceptionally delicate trade of the claimant and would not have interfered with a normal claimant, the defendant is not liable in nuisance.

Facts

The claimant warehoused brown paper in a building. The defendant had a factory that made paper boxes which operated from the building’s basement. This required him to maintain a warm room temperature to keep the boxes in good condition. The claimant’s brown paper was damaged due to the warm temperature of the defendant’s factory.

Claim

Robinson brought an action in the tort of nuisance, claiming damages for the loss he had suffered. The defendant argued that he acted in a reasonable manner and could not have reasonably pre-empted this damage.

Issue

Whether it was a defence to say that the claimant’s brown paper was unusually sensitive. The Court considered whether the warm temperature would have harmed something other than the brown paper.

Held

The defendant was not held liable.

Reasoning

The Court of Appeal dismissed the claim because the operations of the defendant’s factory were not unusual, and would not have impacted a normal user of the building.

Lopes LJ observed that:

A man who carries on the exceptionally delicate trade cannot complain because it is injured by his neighbor doing something lawful in his property, if it is something which would not injure anything but an exceptionally delicate trade.

Accordingly, this could not be considered a nuisance caused by the defendants. When someone carries a delicate business, they cannot then complain that because they are injured by the defendant’s carrying on their lawful business on their property.

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