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In a recent unpublished decision, the Appellate Division found that placing cameras and a speed detector in an easement to monitor the speed of the easement holder constituted an actionable private nuisance.

In that case, Ursitti v. Wilson, 2024 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 197, the defendants lived on and operated a business out of a landlocked parcel of land with a driveway access easement over the plaintiffs’ property. Plaintiffs felt that Defendants’ business led to increased traffic volume, larger vehicles, and increased traffic speed in the easement. To address this, Plaintiffs installed, among other things, several cameras which viewed a portion of the easement and a radar device to monitor vehicle speed in the easement. Following several claims back and forth, all claims were eventually disposed of, other than a private nuisance claim by Defendants. The trial court ruled generally in Defendants’ favor, holding, among other things, that Plaintiffs were required to remove the speed detector and cameras. Plaintiffs appealed.

The appellate court affirmed. After noting that private nuisance is a party’s unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of another party’s property, the court reasoned that the cameras and speed detectors made the Defendants and their invitees uncomfortable. As there was no law on which to base the claim that anyone was driving too fast on the easement, Plaintiffs’ attempts to control Defendants’ speed were an unreasonable interference with Defendants’ only means of accessing their property.

Likewise, under the law of easements, Plaintiffs did not have the right to interfere with Defendants’ use of the easement. That the cameras and speed detectors were not physically located on the easement did not change the court’s position, as they still affected Defendants’ use of the easement by making Defendants and their invitees reluctant to fully utilize the driveway.

The court noted that a key factor in analyzing a nuisance claim is whether the utility of the offending party’s conduct is outweighed by the quantum of harm to the other party. While constant surveillance of the easement in the absence of any legal obligation to drive slow served no utility, the court reasoned that such constant monitoring caused harm to Defendants by causing them and their invitees to be reluctant to fully utilize their driveway due to intimidation.

Finally, the court remarked that the fact that Defendants had no right to expect privacy in the easement was irrelevant to their nuisance claim.

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