Nuisance is a distinct civil wrong, consisting of anything wrongfully done or permitted that interferes with or annoys another in the enjoyment of his/her legal rights. It is anything that annoys or disturbs the free use of one’s property or that renders its ordinary use or physical occupation uncomfortable[i].
A nuisance is anything that interferes with the rights of a citizen, either in person, property, the enjoyment of his/her property, or his/her comfort. It is to be noted that an unreasonable interference with another person’s use and enjoyment of his/her property is determined by the injury caused by the condition and is not determined by the conduct of the party creating the condition.
A nuisance is differentiated from a trespass. A trespass is an invasion of a person’s interest in the exclusive possession of his/her land, whereas a nuisance is an interference with the use and enjoyment of the land and does not require interference with the possession. Similarly, an attractive nuisance is not a true nuisance.
Nuisances are divided into different subheads such as nuisances per se, nuisances per accidens, absolute nuisances, qualified nuisances, permanent, continuing, recurring, or temporary nuisances, public or common nuisances, and private nuisances.
Generally, the location of a particular business is an important factor in determining whether the operation of such business, in which dust, dirt, and similar substances are thrown out, constitutes a nuisance[ii].
A person injured by a nuisance can recover damages in an action at law for tort. Similarly, damages can also be recovered for injury resulting from the legal use of a property, if such use substantially damages the property of another. A private party seeking damages for the creation of a public nuisance must show that defendant’s action constituted nuisance per se, or demonstrate that the defendant’s conduct was unreasonable in order to impose liability[iii].
It is to be noted that any person whose property is injuriously affected or whose personal enjoyment is lessened by a nuisance can bring an action for private nuisance. Whereas, in the case of a public nuisance, it is the state or the federal government that maintains an action in court. In a public nuisance, a state generally brings an action in a parens patriae.
Generally, nuisances cannot be justified on the ground of necessity, pecuniary interest, convenience, or economic advantage to a defendant. An act cannot be a nuisance if it is imperatively demanded by public convenience. Thus, when the public welfare requires it, a nuisance may be permitted for special purposes.
[i] Martin v. Williams, 141 W. Va. 595 (W. Va. 1956).
[ii] Harless v. Workman, 145 W. Va. 266 (W. Va. 1960).
[iii] Erickson v. Sorensen, 877 P.2d 144 (Utah Ct. App. 1994).