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

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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 | Student

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 | Student

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.