- Nuisance. The nuisance cause of action can be an appropriate response to unreasonable behavior by a neighbor. In a case involving chemical use, there are two critical requirements that a plaintiff must satisfy to successfully sue. First, the use of chemicals must be unreasonable, unwarrantable, or unlawful. Reasonableness is typically measured according to the standards of average people (as opposed to professional exterminators) and depends heavily on context. Ordinary spraying of a weed killer may meet the reasonableness requirement, but dumping large quantities of rat poison pellets all over an unfenced residential property might qualify as “unreasonable.” Secondly, the use of chemicals must be the cause of a loss of enjoyment of the plaintiff’s property. So long as the effects of the chemical use do not pass beyond the boundaries of the defendant’s property the plaintiff may not have a cause of action.
- Personal injury. To prevail in a personal injury lawsuit in Nevada the plaintiff needs to prove, among other things, that the defendant was negligent and the plaintiff suffered injuries as a consequence of the negligence. Negligence requires a breach of a legal obligation, which sets up a preliminary challenge to any personal injury suit. Ordinary, responsible use of chemicals on one’s property probably doesn’t breach any legal duty to others. On the other hand, spraying or spreading chemicals that go onto another person’s property may constitute unlawful trespass.
- Injunctions. If a neighbor is continuing to do something that is causing damage or threatening to cause damage the plaintiff can ask the court to order the neighbor to stop by way of an injunction. Injunctions typically form part of a broader case and must be based, among other things, on a reasonable probability of success of the underlying claim. That claim might be nuisance, personal injury, or some other theory. Injunctions can be temporary or permanent. A permanent injunction may be one of the goals of a suit that is also asking for cash compensation. Temporary injunctions are relatively easy to obtain, but they only last for a short time.
Responsibly applied pesticides and herbicides can be useful ways to control weeds and pests. Some consumer-grade chemicals, like the popular herbicide RoundUp, are engineered to persist in the environment for a short time to limit the harm they can cause to people, pets, and wildlife. But the use of these chemicals requires care and a good understanding of the risks they can pose to health. When a neighbor uses chemicals in a way that leads to serious harm, or threatens to do so, a lawsuit may be an appropriate remedy. The specific approach one takes to disputes with a neighbor depends on the facts of the dispute. Several legal tools are available to address irresponsible use of chemicals: