Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Waschak v. Moffat case brief

Waschak v. Moffat case brief summary
109 A.2d 310 (1954)

Defendant coal breaker operators appealed a judgment of the Superior Court (Pennsylvania), which affirmed the trial court judgment refusing to enter judgment non obstante veredicto and in favor of plaintiff property owners in an action in trespass for damage to the owners' dwelling from gas emitted from the operators' culm banks.

Owners filed suit against operators for damage to the owners' dwelling caused by gases emanating without fault on the part of operators from the operators' culm banks. The case was tried on the theory of absolute liability for the maintenance of a nuisance.

The trial court entered a jury verdict for owners that was affirmed by the intermediate appellate court.


  • On appeal, the court held that operators had no reason to be aware of the gas and its effects and that owners were fully aware of the dwelling's surrounding situation. 
  • The invasion of owners' land was not intentional or unreasonable where the emission of gases was not caused by any act of operators and arose merely from the normal and customary use of their land without negligence, recklessness, or ultrahazardous conduct; therefore, no liability could be imposed on the operators.
The court reversed the judgment affirming the verdict against the operators and entered in favor of the operators judgment non obstante veredicto.

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