Sunday, February 14, 2021

Modernisation in English nuisance law

I somehow missed this one from Ben Pontin: "A room with a view in English nuisance law: exploring modernisation hidden within the ‘textbook tradition’". published in Legal Studies in 2018. The abstract:

The paper critically examines the consensus among tort scholars that an injured view can never be actionable in nuisance. The consensus, it is argued, is based on a problematic understanding of the permanence of early modern nuisance authority, and a neglect of modernisation in the definition of actionable injury in the nineteenth century, in response to industrialisation, urbanisation and, crucially, suburbanisation. David Sugarman's ‘textbook tradition’ provides a valuable disciplinary explanation for the mismatch between scholarly portrayals of doctrine and authoritative judicial formulations in decided cases.

For the uninitiated (like me), Pontin explains in the article (I've removed footnotes and added links):

The idea under consideration of a mismatch between formal law and academic exposition opens onto well-charted territory. David Sugarman made an important contribution to this with his critique of the ‘English textbook tradition’. Sugarman's thesis is that Victorian and Edwardian-era legal scholars, exemplified by Professor Frederick Pollock, wrote textbooks that emphasised the permanence of common law principles, downplaying their changeability. They did so in order to counter a negative impression of the common law as chaotic and unpredictable, and thereby unworthy of a university education. The crucial part of Sugarman's analysis for present purposes is that textbook understandings of the common law are ‘not reducible’ to the law itself. Against this, William Twining has suggested that formative legal scholars were attuned to the common law's spontaneity, and that Pollock was in fact in the vanguard of a proto-realist understanding of ‘living law’. In defence of Sugarman, I argue that Pollock and other scholars writing about nuisance overlooked the modernity of contemporary case law. 

Sir Frederick Pollock, 3rd Bt (by Lafayette)

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