TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

Friday, November 8, 2019

Can an Abortion Clinic (or Other Business) Be a Nuisance Because it Attracts Protesters?

Eugene Volokh writes:

     Yes, a Georgia trial court held, and the jury awarded the neighbors $1.5 million, see https://www.mdjonline.com/news/cobb-jury-tells-abortion-doctor-to-pay-million-for-creating/article_f2719f5a-de46-11e9-b3de-8fab09664f5b.html .  As best I can tell from the article and from some of the court papers, the plaintiff neighbors’ claim was chiefly that the clinic attracted a constant stream of protesters, some of whom displayed graphic images of aborted fetuses, some of whom trespassed and accosted visitors to other businesses in the office park, some of whom tried to organize a boycott of the whole office park, and some of them (people suspect) had set a fire and might do it again.  (Part of the claim seems also to be that the clinic’s operation violated parts of the office park owners association’s rules, in which all the owners promised not to create nuisances, but let’s set that aside here.)

     I’m quite skeptical of this result, as I would be if plaintiffs could sue a bookstore that drew protesters or even attackers because it sold controversial literature, a fur store that drew anti-fur protesters, or a business that drew labor protesters.  But I want to make sure I understand the proper nuisance law analysis here; any thoughts from people who have studied nuisance law more closely than I have? 

 

     Please respond in the comments. 

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/tortsprof/2019/11/can-an-abortion-clinic-or-other-business-be-a-nuisance-because-it-attracts-protesters.html

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Comments

There are Georgia cases recognizing that a business can be a nuisance because of repeated criminal activity on and around it, but the criminal activity is usually caused by people invited onto the premises. E.g., Moreland v. Cheney, 267 Ga. 469, 479 S.E.2d 745 (1997); Bethany Grp., LLC v. Grobman, 315 Ga. App. 298, 727 S.E.2d 147 (2012); Camelot Club Condo. Ass'n v. Afari-Opoku, 340 Ga. App. 618, 798 S.E.2d 241 (2017). I'm not aware of Georgia appellate cases extending nuisance liability for running a business that tends to attract unwelcome protests. Most cases, if not all, assume that the defendant has some degree of control over the activity that is harmful to neighbors. Perhaps the covenants imposed a greater duty on the defendant than is typical of other lawful businesses.

Posted by: Charles Cork | Nov 9, 2019 5:05:09 PM

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