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What Constitutes Subsidence

Subsidence of land is the movement of soil from its natural position.  It consists of shifting, falling, slipping, seeping, or oozing of the soil.  A subsidence of land, within the meaning of the rules imposing liability on one who removes its lateral support, is any movement of the soil from its natural position, and may consist of shifting, falling, slipping, seeping, or oozing of the soil.[i]

If an excavation takes away the lateral support and resulted in the subsidence of land, the person making the excavation is liable.  In Law v. Phillips,[ii] court held that, “an excavation, made by an adjacent owner, so as to take away the lateral support, afforded to his neighbor’s ground, by the earth so removed, and cause it, of its own weight, to fall, slide or break away, makes the former liable for the injury, no matter how carefully he may have excavated.”

A person withdrawing the naturally necessary lateral support of land in another’s possession is liable for a subsidence of land.  If there is any superseding cause or other reason then there is no liability.  In, Levi v. Schwartz,[iii] court held that the withdrawal of lateral support does not make a person liable until a subsidence occurs.  Moreover, to make the person liable, the subsidence must be substantial.  Court defined subsidence as, “a subsidence is any movement of the soil from its natural position.  A shifting, falling, slipping, seeping or oozing of the soil is a subsidence within the meaning of the term as used in the law of lateral support of land.”

[i] Levi v. Schwartz, 201 Md. 575 (Md. 1953)

[ii] 136 W. Va. 761 (W. Va. 1952)

[iii] 201 Md. 575 (Md. 1953)


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