Nuisance—what are public and private nuisance claims?
Nuisance—what are public and private nuisance claims?

The following Dispute Resolution practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Nuisance—what are public and private nuisance claims?
  • Definition of nuisance
  • Public nuisance—what is it?
  • Private nuisance—what is it?
  • Private nuisance—elements of the tort
  • The ‘rule in Rylands v Fletcher' (strict liability)
  • Elements of the rule in Rylands v Fletcher
  • Non-natural use
  • Escape
  • Liability—owner or controller
  • More...

Nuisance claims are recognised in the following way:

  1. private nuisance—interference with the use/enjoyment of land causing injury

  2. public nuisance—an unlawful act/omission causing widespread harm

  3. ‘the rule in Rylands v Fletcher’ (‘non-natural’ activity on the defendant’s land escaping and causing harm)

Some private nuisances may also give rise to a statutory nuisance, such as noise nuisance, on which see Practice Note: Neighbour disputes—noise and nuisance.

For more detailed guidance on the types of scenario that may give rise to a claim in private nuisance, the applicable test of reasonableness and standards of liability, damages, remedies and defences for private nuisance claims, see Practice Note: Nuisance—establishing a claim for private nuisance.

Definition of nuisance

For the purposes of an action in tort, a nuisance may either be private or public.

Simply stated:

  1. a private nuisance—is an interference with the use or enjoyment of land that causes injury in relation to an ownership right in that land

  2. a public nuisance—may be defined as an unlawful act or omission, which is so widespread in range and indiscriminate in its effect that it obstructs, damages or inconveniences the rights of the community

While the same action may amount to a private and public nuisance, an individual can only sue for public nuisance if they have suffered 'particular' harm, ie the individual can show they have suffered harm that is different from that suffered by the

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