Opinion:Taylor v. Delaware County Solid Waste Trust, 2021 OK CIV APP 48
Subject matter:GTCA; Nuisance
Date Decided:March 22, 2021; Mande Issued: December 2, 2021
Trial Court:District Court of Delaware County; Judge Crutchfield
Route to this Court:Appeal from a jury verdict.
Facts:Taylor sued Delaware County Solid Waste Trust Authority (SWTA) after one of SWTA’s trash trucks got entangled with a power line on Taylor’s property as it approached Taylor’s dumpster for a pickup. Taylor claimed that the truck driver negligently raised the truck’s arms too early and made a claim under the Governmental Tort Claims Act (GTCA). SWTA denied liability, claiming that the lines had been allowed to sag too low. Taylor claimed personal property damage of $32,122.81 and also that he suffered inconvenience, annoyance, discomfort, and emotional distress under a nuisance cause of action. 
The case proceeded to jury trial and after the close of Taylor’s case SWTA moved for a directed verdict on Taylor’s nuisance claim, arguing that nuisance requires real property damage and typically arises out of an adjacent or contiguous landowner’s use of their own property, neither of which are implicated in this case. SWTA further argued that allowing the nuisance claim to proceed would undermine the damage cap of $25,000 placed on property claims under the GTCA.Finally, SWTA contended that nuisance requires substantial damages, annoyance, or inconvenience and Taylor did not present evidence of anything substantial. The trial court denied the motion and the jury returned a verdict of $25,000 for negligent injury to property and $100,000 for nuisance. SWTA appealed. 
Standard of Review:The question of whether evidence was sufficient to have submitted an issue to the jury, raised by a motion for directed verdict, presents a legal issue that is reviewed de novo. A motion for directed verdict should be granted if the party opposing the motion has failed to demonstrate a prima facie case for recovery. 
Analysis:While the GTCA limits recovery for loss of property to $25,000, the Act also allows an award of up to $125,000 for “any other loss…” Nuisance damages, including such things as inconvenience, annoyance, and discomfort are recoverable under the Act. However, to recover for nuisance under Oklahoma law, the claimant must present evidence of substantial interference with the use and enjoyment of claimant’s property. Here, while Taylor was no doubt inconvenienced to have lost power to part of his property for two weeks, such facts do not constitute a substantial interference with his interest in the land. Taylor’s testimony relayed his inconvenience, annoyance, and discomfort about the damage to his personal property and from the resulting litigation, but not from a loss of use and enjoyment of his land. Private nuisance requires substantial interference with the use and enjoyment of real property. The trial court erred as a matter of law in denying SWTA’s motions for a directed verdict. 
Outcome:Reversed in part and remanded. 
Vote:Bay Mitchell, J. (author), Goree, P.J., Prince, J., concur. 
Other: Petition for Cert denied 9-0.