What's the distinction between public and private nuisance? Some examples would be nice for better understanding. Thanks in advance.

3 Answers

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The major difference between the two is the scope of harm that is done and the number of people to whom the harm is done.

A private nuisance is one that is felt by a single person or perhaps a single family.  By contrast, a public nuisance is one whose impact is felt by a large number of people.

Some possible examples of private nuisance:

  • Your dog using my yard as its toilet
  • My tree dropping rotten fruit in your yard

Some possible examples of public nuisance:

  • A bar playing loud music late at night near to private homes
  • A business that dumps its trash in the empty lot out back, attracting rodents and flies and endangering public health
  • A run-down motel that is used mainly by drug dealers and prostitutes

In general, the remedy for private nuisance is a suit brought by the offended private citizen.  The remedy for a public nuisance is sought by the affected government.


thewanderlust878's profile pic

thewanderlust878 | Student, College Freshman | (Level 3) Salutatorian

Posted on

This is a great question! A private nuisance is something that bothers usually only one individual or maybe one family. For example, a washing machine that you have to kick to get it to work, but you don't have enough money to buy a new one. A public nuisance is one that affects many people, usually in a larger setting. For example, if a frat house is having a huge party, the entire neighborhood would be affected and upset. 

grazianione's profile pic

grazianione | Elementary School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

Public nuisance affects the public while a private nuisance is one that affects an individual or a family.  For instance, if a farmer failed to properly disposed of a significant amount of manure, or atleast cover up its smells, and neighbors and an adjacent neighborhood could not avoid the odors, it would constitute a public nuisance.  If there was one family immediately adjacent to that property, yet it could be smelled beyond that immediate family it would constitute a private nuisance since it is only affecting the family adjacent to that family. Since there are not neighbors around it it would then be considered a private nuisance.