garbage removal, nuisance, injunction, zoning, Sovereign Immunity
In 1921, Baltimore City was faced with the problem of rotting garbage (kitchen refuse consisting of animal and vegetable matter) when a privately-managed piggery (a form of garbage disposal that involved feeding kitchen refuse to pigs) abandoned its operations. As a result, the City Council entered into a contract with William F. Huse, a farmer who owned several wharves on Bear Creek in Baltimore County. Huse agreed to buy the City’s refuse and use it as fertilizer, while the City agreed to haul the garbage to Huse’s wharves. Concern and complaints from Baltimore County residents caused the Baltimore County Council to initiate a nuisance suit against the City in an attempt to prevent the execution of the contract.
The Baltimore County Circuit Court granted an injunction against the City. The City filed an appeal in the Maryland Court of Appeals to protest the injunction. In the meantime, the City continued to haul its garbage to Huse’s wharves. The Maryland Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision and remanded the case to the trial court, where Judge Frank I. Duncan again held in the County’s favor. Judge Duncan, however, allowed for an extension for the start date of the injunction against the City. By the time the injunction was set to begin, the City had initiated an alternative garbage disposal system in Anne Arundel County. Thus, although the County had won the legal battle, in practicality, the City was the real winner as it was allowed to continue its practice of hauling its garbage to Huse’s wharves until it found an alternative to its garbage removal problem.
The case established the following: a local administrative board (County Council) could sue another government (City Council) without violating sovereign immunity principles; a local government could be sued in a foreign jurisdiction when the government has allegedly caused a public nuisance in that foreign jurisdiction; and evidence must be more than speculative to establish a nuisance in Maryland.
Digital Commons Citation
Gontrum, Julia Marie, "Coghlan v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore: County Health Board Nuisance Suit Buys Time for Baltimore City to Handle Garbage Removal Crisis in 1921" (2006). Legal History Publications. 5.