How Tomatoes and Chickens Had Lasting Legal Impacts in America 

 January 8, 2016

By  LMW Attorneys

Certain cases in history are remembered as historic events that change the way we live and society operates. What many people might not know is how some chickens and tomatoes changed the course of legal history.

How a 1946 Chicken Farmer Case Could Affect Drone Usage

In 1946, a chicken farmer from North Carolina sued the United States Government for air trespass because noise from planes flying overhead was causing such a disturbance that the farmer was forced to close his operation. 150 chickens died flying into walls from fright over the planes’ startling noises, and the farmer’s production decreased dramatically.

Up to this time, a landowner owned all the space in the sky that extended up from their land “into the periphery of the universe.” But based on the prevalence of air travel, the U.S. Supreme Court adopted the “enveloping atmosphere” rule, holding that a landowner owns as much airspace above their property that they can reasonable use in connection with the land.

Because drones fly at a lower level than do commercial airplanes, this case could affect the coming age of drones.

The Supreme Court Says a Tomato Is a Vegetable, Not a Fruit

In Nix v. Hedden, the U.S. Supreme Court 1893 ruling held that the tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable. Nix was suing a tax collector over back taxes because vegetables were subject to import taxes but fruits were not. While the tomato is technically a fruit because it contains and protects the seeds of the host plant, the court ruled it as a vegetable because of its usage in common language. This ruling on the classification of tomatoes still stands today and continues to impact legal proceedings.

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