Tennessee Court of Appeals Finds Planting Trees that Block View of Golf Course is Not a Nuisance

Posted on Mar 22 2015 2:43PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently decided whether it was considered a nuisance to block a neighbor’s view of a golf course with trees.  The case of Stibler v. The Country Club, Inc., No. E2014-00743-COA-R3-CV, 2015 WL 1093638 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2015) is unique and has interesting facts.  In this situation the plaintiff filed suit against a country club that ran a golf course because the country club planted trees that blocked the plaintiff’s (who owned a neighboring property) view of the golf course.  The court first considered whether the planting of trees violated the covenants and restrictions for the subdivision.  There was nothing in the actual covenants and restrictions that were violated by the planting of these trees.  As a result, the court next turned to the issue of to whether blocking of a view to a golf course by planting trees is considered nuisance under Tennessee law.


There is no question that trees can constitute a nuisance in certain circumstances (See prior post on this issue).  In fact, the Tennessee Supreme Court has provided guidance specifically regarding trees and nuisance stating that “encroaching trees and plants may be regarded as a nuisance when they cause actual harm or pose an imminent danger of actual harm to adjoining property.”  Stibler at 4 (quoting Lane v. W. J. Curry & Sons, 92 S.W.3d 355, 364 (Tenn. 2002)). 


In the Stibler case at issue, it was undisputed that the country club planted trees on its own property and that the trees did not encroach on plaintiff’s property in any way.  Further, these trees did not cause any physical damage to the plaintiff’s property.  The sole basis for plaintiff’s claim is that there was economic damage caused to the plaintiff’s property resulting from the loss of a golf course view.  The Tennessee Court of Appeals found that losing a view of an adjacent golf course on a country club’s property due to the planting of trees is “simply insufficient to give rise to a claim for nuisance.” Stibler at 4.  Essentially, unless there is evidence of actual encroachment onto the plaintiff’s property, imminent danger to the plaintiff’s property or actual damage to the plaintiff’s property, then there simply is no claim for nuisance with the simple blocking of a view by trees. 


This case certainly has interesting facts and these facts may seem to be relatively minor or insignificant.  However, there are circumstances where this can be a major issue for property owners.  Recently in the news there has been quite a bit of discussion about owners of property that is adjacent to Wrigley Field in Chicago.  The adjacent property owners sued the Chicago Cubs because the Cubs are constructing a large video board and advertising signs that will obstruct the view into the baseball field from adjacent properties.  These adjacent owners have sold tickets on their rooftops because fans could see into the stadium for baseball games.  These adjacent owners actually profit off watching Cubs games from their property.  This is a much more financially significant fact situation.  However, in Tennessee, apparently there is no claim for “nuisance” against adjacent homeowners that blocks someone’s view of their property.  I am not sure if this reasoning would hold if there was a clear economic harm like the situation involving the Chicago Cubs.  I tend to think the reasoning would be the same and there would be no claim for nuisance in that situation.


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TAGS: Torts, Real Estate, Miscellaneous
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Jason A. Lee is a Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC. He practices in all areas of defense litigation inside and outside of Tennessee.

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Tennessee Defense Litigation Blog
Jason A. Lee, Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC
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