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What a Nuisance: Law Firm Sues Burger Joint

By Tanya Roth, Esq. | Last updated on

Who doesn't love the smoky scent of hamburgers sizzling on the grill? Besides vegetarians and vegans, that is. The answer, at least in this case, is lawyers. Or more specifically, the Washington D.C. office of Steptoe & Johnson which is asking for an injunction against their neighbor, the hamburger joint Rouge States, to stop them from fumigating their office with the enticing scent of burgers. And the smoke that comes with it.

According to the original complaint filed in March, the law firm claimed the smoke and fumes from the restaurant were constantly pouring into the air system of the office building that houses Steptoe. All according to the Blog of Legal Times (BLT for short), the firm's employees were getting nauseous, had headaches, watery eyes and were drowsy and sometimes distracted. None of these conditions are good for office moral, or performance, for that matter. Being lawyers, they sued.

BLT writes that Rouge States contends that yes, originally they did have a bit of an exhaust problem and after being cited by the District, they fixed it. They say that their new system, and extra training given to employees on how to use it efficiently, has all but wiped out the problem. They admit that when the suit was originally filed in March, some smoke and smell issues may have existed, but as of court filings in June, they were remedied. The court hearing the case asked the parties on July 22 to come to an agreement. If they cannot, the court will set a hearing for August where it may grant the injunction to the attorneys.

This kind of neighbor v. neighbor dispute is all too common. In a homeowner's situation, when one neighbor creates a situation that violates what is known as the "quiet enjoyment" of another, they can be sued in a nuisance action. A private nuisance action can be brought where there is a loss of the use or enjoyment of property without an actual physical invasion of that property.

Often, a plaintiff seeks injunctive relief. An injunction generally requires the defendant to take some specific actions to minimize the negative effect of his actions on the plaintiff. However, the court will balance the hardships of the two parties. In this case, if an injunction would really cause Rouge States to cease operations completely, the judge will probably hesitate to put them out of business.

So lawyers, cooks and building owners (both owners of the respective buildings are also parties to the action) are going to have to find a way to work it out; because if Steptoe wins, Rouge State says it will have to shut its doors. In any case, we know where the Steptoe folks will not be eating lunch.

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