In a recent decision, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts reviewed a real estate dispute involving a nuisance claim between neighboring property owners. In Maffei v. Johnson (Mass. App. Ct. Feb. 19, 2016), a landowner (who had since died) had filled and leveled a portion of his property over many years. The plaintiff owned the neighboring property and brought suit against the landowner’s estate, alleging that the filling stopped the flow of water from the plaintiff’s land onto the decedent’s land and resulted in the accumulation of water on one part of the plaintiff’s property. The judge held a trial on the plaintiff’s nuisance claim and concluded that the decedent’s actions were reasonable and that his estate was not liable for nuisance. The plaintiff subsequently appealed that decision.
In Maffei, the decedent had built a garage on his property which he backfilled against the foundation. After the garage was constructed, the decedent began filling and leveling the area in the front and to the left of the garage. He also leveled the left side of his property. The plaintiff noticed that after the decedent added the fill, water originating from the plaintiff’s property increasingly accumulated in the corner of his lot over an area of approximately 4,500 square feet. The water accumulation did not interfere with the plaintiff’s house or driveway.