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Why Sturges v Bridgman is important

In Sturges v Bridgman, the Court considered the character of the locality when deciding whether the defendant’s interference was unreasonable. Furthermore, they held it was no defence that the plaintiff came to the nuisance.

Facts

A doctor moved next door to a confectioner, who had produced sweets for sale in his kitchen for many years. The doctor constructed a small shed for the purpose of private practice on the boundary between their properties. However, the loud noises from the confectioner’s industrial mortars and pestles could be clearly heard, disrupting the use and enjoyment of his land.

Claim

Sturges brought an action for private nuisance against the defendant seeking an injunction. The defendant argued that he had been practicing in this way for many years and the doctor had ‘moved to the nuisance’.

Issue

The Court had to determine the relevance, if any, that the defendant had been making this noise for a long period of time, but this only recently caused disruption to their neighbour’s land. In other words, whether it made a difference that the defendant had ‘moved to the nuisance’.

Held

An injunction was granted by the lower court, which was upheld by the Court of Appeal.

Reasoning

The Court made clear that whether something constituted nuisance must be considered on case to case basis. In the present case, the Court held the activity of the confectioner did constitute an unreasonable nuisance as a normal person would find it a nuisance. It made no difference that no one had previously complained about the activity. Therefore, it made no difference that the doctor had moved to nuisance, as the defendant’s actions had always had the potential to interfere with that piece of land.

Importantly, the Court took into account that the property was in a residential area, or the ‘character of the location’. Thesiger LJ famously said:

what would be a nuisance in Belgrave Square would not necessarily be so in Bermondsey

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