Updated December 20, 2019
Definition of a Public Nuisance
Source: Nolo.com Everybody's Guide to Small Claims Court in California, page 41, 2015
When claiming a public nuisance, you must first meet the criteria for a private nuisance.
You own, rent, or lease property.
The defendant created or maintained a condition that was
~ harmful to your health
~ indecent or offensive, or
~ obstructed your free use of your property.
You did not consent to the person's conduct.
The person's conduct interfered with your use and/or enjoyment of your property.
The conduct would be reasonably annoying or disturbing to the ordinary person.
The seriousness of the harm outweighs the public benefit of the conduct (See Cal. Civ. Code section 3479).
A public nuisance means that someone is acting in a way that causes a group of people to suffer a health or safety hazard or lose the peaceful enjoyment of their property.
For example, lots of noisy airplanes suddenly begin flying low over a residential area, or a chemical plant lets toxic fumes drift over a neighboring property.
Public nuisance suits are often initiated by groups of individuals all filing small claims suits at more or less the same time.
To successfully sue a person or group of people for creating a pubic nuisance, you must prove all the facts listed above relating to private nuisance and also that
~ the condition affected a substantial number of people at the same time
~ any social usefulness of the person's conduct is outweighed by the seriousness of the harm,
~ the harm you suffered was different from the harm suffered the general public (for example, if a chemical plant's fumes are noticeable from the nearby freeway but ashes from the plant's smokestack fall into your swimming pool.)
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