About Public And Private Nuisances

Legally speaking, a nuisance is a tort related to the use and enjoyment of real property. There are two types of nuisance: public nuisance and private nuisance. A public nuisance is some interference with the public’s right to use, have access to, or enjoy property. A private nuisance is a non-trespassory invasion of another’s interest in the private use and enjoyment of land. A private nuisance interferes with a property owner’s right to the “quiet enjoyment” of their real property. A public nuisance is a criminal wrong while a private nuisance is a tort that is actionable in a civil court.


A public nuisance is an unreasonable interference with a right common to the general public. Certain circumstances may sustain a holding that an interference with a public right is unreasonable. These include whether the conduct involves a significant interference with the public health, the public safety, the public peace, the public comfort, or the public convenience. Also, whether the conduct is proscribed by a statute, ordinance or administrative regulation, and whether the conduct is of a continuing nature or has produced a permanent or long-lasting effect and has a significant effect upon the public right, which the person responsible for the nuisance knows or has reason to know.

Whoever erects, sets up, establishes, maintains, keeps or continues, or causes to be erected, set up, established, maintained, kept or continued, any public or common nuisance is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree. If the nuisance is in existence at the time of the conviction and sentence, a Pennsylvania court, in its discretion, may direct either the defendant or the sheriff of the county at the expense of the defendant to abate the nuisance.


Pennsylvania Courts adhere to the following definition of the tort of private nuisance in Pennsylvania:

A property owner is subject to liability for a private nuisance if, but only if, his conduct is the thing that encroaches another’s interest in the private use and enjoyment of land, and the encroachment is either

  1. intentional and unreasonable, or
  2. unintentional and otherwise actionable under the rules controlling liability for negligent or reckless conduct, or for abnormally dangerous conditions or activities. Butts v. Sw. Energy Prod. Co., 2014 WL 3953155, at *3 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 12, 2014).

Pennsylvania law defines the interest in the enjoyment of one’s land in terms of occupancy, physical interruption, and physical condition. These terms indicate land uses that are enjoyed while a person is actually present on the real property.

If you have any questions about the law of nuisance, contact Powell Law at (570) 961-0777. Our decades of experience make us the clear and obvious choice for all types of legal representation in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and surrounding areas. The consultation is FREE and you don’t pay anything unless we win. Our attorneys, past and present, have represented motor vehicle accident victims for 113 years. Call today!



About Public And Private Nuisances

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