Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Nuisance Definition:

Excessive or unlawful use of one’s property to the extent of unreasonable annoyance or inconvenience to a neighbor or to the public.

Related Terms: Tort, Abatement, Sic Utera Tuo Ut Alienam Non Laedas, Strict Liability, Spite Fence, Private Nuisance, Public Nuisance, Absolute Nuisance, Common Nuisance

Unreasonable and substantial interference with a neighbour’s use or enjoyment of land.

In Kramer, Justice Singer adopted these words to define nuisance:

"... the wrongful invasion of a legal right or interest."

In 1863, Justice Blackburn, in Hodkinson v Ennor, and referring to a decision at 1 Salk. 360-361, wrote:

"I take the law to be that you must not injure the property of your neighbour, and consequently, if filth is created on any man's land, then in the quaint language of the report in Salk. 361, he whose dirt it is must keep it that it may not trespass."

In 1989, Canada's Supreme Court, in Tock v. St. John's held that:

"Nuisances are caused by an act or omission, whereby a person is unlawfully annoyed, prejudiced or disturbed in the enjoyment of land....

"(N)uisance may take a variety of forms, ranging from actual physical damage to land to interference with the health, comfort or convenience of the owner or occupier of land."

Test: what would be tolerated by the ordinary occupier.

The standard is the ordinary man, which means that abnormal sensitivities may prevent a claim if the nuisance would not have otherwise unreasonably interfered with an ordinary occupier (eg. perfume).

Nor would it be necessary to prove negligence on the part of the defendant (nuisance is not a branch of the law of negligence).

Nuisance is an actionable tort.

Damages are often indirect (as opposed to trespass where the harm is direct by the tort-feasor).

Examples: noise from a go-kart business; smell from a slaughter-house; dust from a saw mill; smoke.

It is a doctrine well established in the common law, having been described by William Blackstone, in 1756, as:

"Nuisance or annoyance signifies any thing that worketh hurt, inconvenience or damages. Nuisances are of two kinds: public or common nuisances, which affect the public, and are annoyance to all the king's subjects; ... and private nuisances which ... may be defined (as) any thing done to the hurt or annoyance of the lands, tenements or hereditaments of another."


Categories & Topics:

Always looking up definitions? Save time with our search provider (modern browsers only)

If you find an error or omission in Duhaime's Law Dictionary, or if you have suggestion for a legal term, we'd love to hear from you!