Plaintiffs brought this action for damages that allegedly resulted from the drift of smoke to their residential property from field burning operations that defendant conducted on his adjacent property in 1987 and 1988. The damages allegedly consisted of $950 for soot removal from buildings on plaintiffs' property and $20,000 general damages for physical and emotional distress and interference with the use and enjoyment of the property. Plaintiffs stated alternative claims for intentional trespass and for "strict liability." The latter claim was based on the theory that field burning is an abnormally dangerous activity. The trial court allowed defendant's motion to strike that claim. It denied plaintiffs' motion for a directed verdict as to liability on the trespass claim and submitted that claim to the jury, which returned a general verdict for defendant. Plaintiffs appeal, and we reverse.
The Ream v. Keen case is precedent setting and is now being used in many cases involving "property" being transmitted by air over another person's property. For example, it was cited in a recent "biotech pollution" case involving drift of genetic materials: http://www.worc.org/foodfight/liability-IDlawjournal.html Another case in which Ream v. Keen was cited involved smoke from agricultural field burning in Idaho: http://www.hbsslaw.com/files/courtdoc-grass51037237100841.pdf
From a Burning Issues member: "I think that most attorneys don't know about Ream v. Keen and don't advise their clients to use a trespass claim in legal fights over woodsmoke. I really think that Ream v. Keen is a precedent-setting case that can be used by individuals having to sue their neighbor's over woodsmoke trespass. And the more examples of this case being used as precedent, the easier it will be for people to use the trespass claim in getting a quicker legal solution to their woodsmoke problems. Nuisance cases take a very, very long time and are very, very expensive. One photo of smoke on your property from a neighbor's source is all you need to prove trespass."