Carnival Cruise Lines recently scored a big legal victory in the South Carolina Supreme Court against several Charleston preservation and environmental groups. The Plaintiffs claim that a 2,000 passenger Carnival cruise ship that uses Charleston as its home port is a nuisance. The Court found that the Plaintiffs lacked standing because they were alleging a general public nuisance.
The Plaintiffs in this case alleged that the mammoth cruise ship caused traffic congestion while loading and unloading its 2,000 passengers in downtown Charleston. They also claimed that it created air pollution and blocked views. Anyone who has been to downtown Charleston on a day when the cruise ship was loading up can certainly confirm its effect on traffic. The several story high ship also blocks some views of the river. However, the court never reached the underlying nuisance claim. Instead, the Court disposed of the case by holding that the Plaintiffs lacked standing because they were alleging a general public nuisance. In South Carolina, as in most states, no civil remedy exists for a private citizen harmed by a public nuisance, even if his or her harm was greater than the harm suffered by others. Rather, a plaintiff must allege a particularized harm to his or her legally protected interest.
As reported by Reuters, one of the lawyers for the Plaintiffs, Blan Holman, has said that some individual property owners are considering refiling the lawsuit as individuals. Presumably, those property owners will attempt to allege a private nuisance for show that the cruise ship specifically interferes with the enjoyment and use of their property.
The case is Carnival Corp., et. al. v. Historic Ansborough Neighborhood Ass’n, No. 2011-197486 (S.C. Nov. 19, 2013).