Legal research is "the process of identifying and retrieving information necessary to support legal decision-making. In its broadest sense, legal research includes each step of a course of action that begins with an analysis of the facts of a problem and concludes with the application and communication of the results of the investigation.
Experience has taught me that a couple of hours looking into a problem can have many benefits. First and sometimes most important, we tend to have better success working with emotional responses when we feel prepared. And good research means good information, good information is the life blood of decision making.
A couple lives next door to a restaurant. Unfortunately, the restaurant has placed it’s dumpster at the property line with the couple. During the summer months, the odor from the dumpster becomes unbearable and on many occasions, these folks are not able to sit in their backyard. They go to Town Hall for relief. Town Hall is helpful in getting the restaurant to police its dumpster. The restaurant begins washing out the dumpster on a regular basis, scheduling more pick-ups and making sure the lid remains closed. However, time passes, the season ends and the dumpster problem goes away. Next season arrives and with it the nasty odor. The regular washing out of the dumpster after empting continues but the additional pick- ups have stopped. The couple goes back to Town Hall. Another hearing is scheduled.
These folks have been contemplating selling their home and have a real problem. Should they sell in the off- season when there is no odor? Doing so could lead to legal problems with the new owner. Although, they have another hearing scheduled they are not sure what to do, what their rights are. They decide to speak to a lawyer. We schedule an appointment and after listening to their concerns, I suggest spending a couple hours researching their issue. They agree and we decide that I will spend a maximum off 3 hours on the research. My assignment is to determine if the couple can legally require the restaurant to move the dumpster to another location.
As part of the research, I go to Town Hall to review the minutes of the meetings held about the dumpster. I spend time investigating the tort (wrongful act) of Nuisance. Nuisance is one of the oldest common law torts. After reviewing the elements of private nuisance, I examine case law regarding Private Nuisance.
Upon completing the research, I write a summary describing the legal elements of Private Nuisance and include 3 cases involving Private Nuisance. I deliver the package to the couple. They review the summary and case law and we schedule another appointment. We discuss their options and decide that, for now, the best course of action is to convince the restaurant that it is in everybody’s best interest to commit to keeping the dumpster as odor free as is practical. We want a written agreement. They return to Town Hall and the scheduled hearing, better informed of the law. At the hearing, the restaurant agrees to increase the scheduled emptying of its dumpster and continue rinsing it out at regular intervals.
(The restaurant has not signed an agreement, but does continue to keep the dumpster odor to a minimum and the couple is able to enjoy their backyard.)