The Washington Court of Appeals recently ruled in a published opinion that a driveway light installed in compliance with the local code could nonetheless constitute a nuisance if certain facts are proven on remand. The Court also ruled that a large planted tree could constitute a "spite structure" prohibited by state statute if certain facts are proven on remand. Yes, even light and trees can be bad sometimes.
An activity is a nuisance when it interferes unreasonably with a neighbor's use and enjoyment of his or her property. No Washington case up to this point had decided that light can be a nuisance, but the Court ruled in this case that "a trier of fact could find that the driveway light, without the available adjustment of its shield, offends the senses so as to essentially interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of Haley's home." The Court deemed it significant that no harm was identified resulting from an adjustment of the light shield at issue.
A Washington statute provides a person with the right to obtain an injunction if a neighbor maliciously erects a structure intended to spite, injure, or annoy that person. No Washington case up to this point had decided that one planted tree can be such a structure, but the Court ruled in this case that "a single tree artificially located and planted with spiteful intent may, depending on the circumstances, constitute a structure within the meaning of RCW 7.40.030." The Court based its ruling in part on a 1991 Washington case which held that a row of trees planted along a property line may constitute a fence prohibited by a restrictive covenant.