Generally, noise in itself is not a nuisance. But in certain circumstances where noise is unreasonable, it amounts to a nuisance[i]. For instance, noise made at night during normal sleeping hours may be a nuisance, while the same or even greater noise during the day would not be a nuisance[ii]. The question as to what amount of noise is reasonable must be determined on the basis of facts[iii]. If noise causes physical discomfort and annoyance to people with ordinary sensibilities, tastes, and habits and if it seriously interferes with the ordinary comfort and enjoyment of their homes, such noise constitutes a private nuisance[iv].
However, the general standard adopted for determining noise nuisance is the degree of unreasonableness. While ascertaining the degree of unreasonableness, the following facts and circumstances are taken into consideration[v]:
- location and surroundings;
- character and magnitude of the industry or business complained of;
- manner in which the industry or business is conducted;
- character and volume of noise;
- duration and time of occurrence of noise; and
- number of people affected by that noise.
A municipal corporation has the authority to regulate or prohibit nuisance by using its police power. Under this power, they can regulate noises that affect the public health or welfare of its residents by imposing limitations on noise level[vi].
Noise as a nuisance can be a creation of either a single individual or a group of individuals. In both cases, a defendant is responsible to answer for his/her individual contribution to noise.
Vibration accompanied by noise induces actual physical discomfort to persons of ordinary sensibilities or injures properties of such people. Therefore, vibration of a particular degree that materially interferes with the ordinary comfort of human life will constitute a nuisance[vii].
Likewise, casting light on another’s premises will constitute a nuisance if the intensity of the light is strong enough to disturb a person of normal sensibilities. But in most cases involving the question of light as nuisance, light is only one of the several elements considered.
[i] Sherrod v. Dutton, 635 S.W.2d 117 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1982).
[ii] Rochester v. Charlotte Docks Co., 114 N.Y.S.2d 37 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1952).
[iii] Kobielski v. Belle Isle East Side Creamery Co., 222 Mich. 656 (Mich. 1923).
[iv] Gorman v. Sabo, 210 Md. 155 (Md. 1956).
[v] Borsvold v. United Dairies, 347 Mich. 672 (Mich. 1957).
[vi] Am Jur 2d Municipal Corp., Counties, Other Political Subdivision § 408.
[vii] Alabama Power Co. v. Stringfellow, 228 Ala. 422 (Ala. 1934).