If a landowner removes a lateral support by excavation done on his land, he is absolutely liable for the damages to his adjoining landowner. But this rule is not applicable in the case of noncoterminous or noncontiguous tract. Noncoterminous or noncontiguous tracts are lands without a common boundary.
However, the fact that a plaintiff’s land does not have a common boundary with the area of the excavation does not deprive him/her of the right to recover damages for the loss of lateral support caused by the defendant’s negligence in making the excavation. In, Puckett v. Sullivan,[i] plaintiff was the owner of a home in a subdivision on a hillside. Defendant excavated the bottom of the hill. Plaintiff’s property was not adjacent to the site but the excavations lead to subsidence of plaintiff’s property. Plaintiff filed suit alleging that defendant was negligent in removing the natural lateral support for their property which caused it to subside. Court held that, the fact that plaintiff’s property did not have a common boundary with the excavation site did not bar him from recovering damages and the plaintiff is liable.
Courts are of the view that, in the case of noncoterminous tract, the excavator is liable for the injury to the lateral support only if there is nuisance.[ii] Further, the fact that a statute removed the common-law rule of absolute liability of an excavator for the loss of lateral support to adjoining property did not relieve him/her of liability for injury to the lateral support of noncoterminous land caused by his/her negligence in excavation.
[i] 190 Cal. App. 2d 489 (Cal. App. 3d Dist. 1961)
[ii] Beauchamp v. Excelsior Brick Co., 143 A.D. 48 (N.Y. App. Div. 1911)