Posted by: Patricia Salkin | October 30, 2015

Fed. Dist. Court in NE Dismisses Nuisance and Section 1983 Claims Against Festival and City

A three-day art, music, culinary, and learning festival called “Life is Beautiful” was scheduled to be held in downtown Las Vegas on the weekend of September 25–27, 2015. Plaintiff Amistad Christiana Church alleged that the resulting crowds, road closings, and concert noise would unconstitutionally interfere with its ability to hold weekend services. It sued Life is Beautiful, LLC and the City of Las Vegas, which issued the special-use permits that allowed the festival to operate, seeking an injunction barring Life is Beautiful from holding performances on two specific stages while church services are being held. Alternatively, Amistad requested that defendants put in “mature noise buffers” to prevent the music from its stages from drowning out Amistad’s services or provide a similar solution. 

A private entity like Life as Beautiful can be subject to liability under § 1983 if there is such a close nexus between the State and the challenged action that seemingly private behavior may be fairly treated as that of the State itself. Here, however, there were no facts in the complaint alleging that state officials dominated Life is Beautiful’s decision making, that its funds were generated by state institutions, or that it was acting in lieu of a traditional state actor. Amistad’s § 1983 claim against the City was likewise defective because the City had taken no action to prohibit, regulate, or coerce Amistad’s religious beliefs or practices. 

For its private nuisance claim, Amistad was required to allege that the interference caused by the festival was both substantial and unreasonable. Because the festival was a temporary event in a location frequently used for festivals there was no evidence that the festival would fundamentally “change the character” of the neighborhood. Furthermore, since there were no facts in Amistad’s complaint to support a finding of bad faith, the court also dismissed Amistad’s nuisance claim against the City. Because all of these aforementioned claims failed, the court denied Amistad’s motion for a preliminary injunction due to the unlikelihood of success on the merits.

Amistad Christiana Church v Life is Beautiful, LLC, 2015 WL 5532299 (D. NE 9/18/2015)


Responses

  1. This comment focuses on the private nuisance claim in the Amistad Christina Church v. Life is Beautiful, LLC case. In this case the court had stated that to sustain a private claim for nuisance that the plaintiff “must allege that the interference caused by the festival is both substantial and unreasonable”. The court further addresses what would constitute “substantial” and “unreasonable” interference, in which I believe would be adequately proven due tot he nature of music festivals. It is reasonable to infer that effects of musical festivals would contribute to a nuisance to many property owners in the vicinity of the music festival.

    However the main factor that determined the outcome of the nuisance claim was whether the music festival would fundamentally “change the character of the neighborhood”. While, the court concluded that the festival was a temporary event in an area used for festivals, what if the festival that was at that location was a different one that lasted longer? Or the festival would repeatedly return every year or twice a year? Would that have changed the outcome of this decision? In the recent generation the popularity of music festivals has dramatically increased, with festivals such as Coachella, Ultra, Burning Man, Electric Daisy, and Electric Zoo. For example, Coachella lasts three days for three weekends and returns every year. So now what was once a “one-time” event is now consistent for an extended period, and within this period it brings along the crowds, people, congestion, drugs, and constant partying for an entire month. Is that enough to constitute a fundamental change of character? Does the fundamental character change need to be a permanent continuous change or can it be substantial in time? This is an issue that the courts should examine as the popularity of these concerts increase.


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