Supreme Court Rules That Nuisance Suit Against Farm That Hosts Music Concerts May Proceed

August 19, 2013

In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court held that the Right to Farm Act does not bar a homeowner’s nuisance lawsuit against a farm that hosted amplified music concerts.

Velda Shore retired to a subdivision in rural Blount County in 2003. The subdivision was adjacent to Maple Lane Farms, which was owned and operated by Robert Schmidt. In addition to raising crops and livestock, Mr. Schmidt hosted spring and fall festivals that included a variety of public attractions, including music concerts.

Ms. Shore complained to county officials about the noise and traffic caused by the concerts. In 2008, the Blount County Board of Zoning Appeals decided that Mr. Schmidt could hold only one concert per year at Maple Lane Farms. After Mr. Schmidt ignored the board’s decision, Ms. Shore filed suit alleging that the concerts were a nuisance and violated local zoning regulations.

The Chancery Court for Blount County dismissed Ms. Shore’s suit based on its conclusions that the Tennessee Right to Farm Act shielded Mr. Schmidt from nuisance liability and that all the activities at Maple Lane Farms were exempted from local zoning regulations. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, concluding that the activities on the farm met the state’s legal definition of agritourism and were permitted.

The Supreme Court granted Ms. Shore’s appeal and reversed the dismissal of her case. The Court decided that the Right to Farm Act did not apply to the music concerts at Maple Lane Farms because they were not connected to the production of crops and livestock. The Court also decided that Ms. Shore had presented enough evidence to permit her nuisance claim to proceed. Finally, the Court determined that the concerts were not exempted from the local zoning regulations.

Read the Velda J. Shore v. Maple Lane Farms, LLC Opinion, authored by Justice William C. Koch.