Home Environmental Law What You Should Know About Common Law Actions

What You Should Know About Common Law Actions

What You Should Know About Common Law Actions

In environmental law, common law actions may be brought against any entity that acts irresponsibly against the environment.  Sometimes the concept of personal property and the right to use property however way one wants is in conflict with the interests of the environment and all the beings that inhabit the environment.

Organizations advocate for environmental safety on behalf of animals, humans, and the sustainability of every ecosystem on Earth. Civil disputes in regards to environmental law can be brought at the instant that someone acts negligently in any capacity to the detrimental of anyone or anything in the environment. Plants and animals do not have standing in court because they cannot speak.

Unfortunately, many common law actions concerning  environmental law are brought to court after wrong has been done. Fortunately, the wrongs that are done against the environment do not have to result in injury to be resolved in a court of law. Types of common law actions depend on who is responsible and the extent of the harm or wrongdoing.


Nuisance is the use of personal, corporate, or public property to the detriment of a neighboring property holder. Nuisance suits come in two different types: public or private. The type of nuisance suit is structured on the extent to which one’s use of property threatens the enjoyment of other parties’ property.

Public nuisances often criminally violate environmental law. Criminal as well civil proceedings may result from public nuisance suits initiated by public or private entities. Since environmental crimes are typically of a public nature, public nuisances can become criminal cases. The states can sue corporations that violate environmental law as well. Private nuisances usually involve no statutory offenses.

However, the lawful use of one’s property can inflict harm upon someone else’s property. To file either a public or private nuisance suit, physical injury or damage does not have to be reported. Nuisances are brought if the one’s annoying use of property has not yet done harm or is just plain annoying. 

Negligence & Strict Liability

“Tort” is nothing more than a fancy word for a personal wrongdoing. In civil litigation, including environmental civil litigation, there are two types of tort. There must be some form of physical injury or harm done as a result of someone’s disregard or irresponsibility. In environmental law, there must be some form of harm done to the environment whose negligible actions ruined the livelihood of another party.

Everyone is dependent on the environment; therefore, it is inevitable that an irresponsible act against the environment will result losses of another party. A tort of negligence makes the claim that an individual or corporation’s is solely responsible for the injury or harm that brought the dispute to civil court.

A tort of strict liability concentrates culpability to a third party. For example, when an oil tanker ship leaks oil and destroys the beach tourism and the coastal habitat, if it can be proven or is suspected that the ship’s rivets on the hull were defective and would reasonably sustain the type of blow that ruptured the hull on the tanker, then the manufacturer of the rivets is responsible.

The liability for the environmental injury no longer lies on the captain of the ship or the shipping company, it lies on the maker of the defective rivet. These two types of torts are not often clear-cut ultimate responsibility is revealed upon the facts that are revealed as a result of the court proceedings. There are monetary damage caps for both types of torts. Maximum damages that could be won on behalf of the plaintiff is contingent upon the type of tort brought before the civil court of law.