What is Nuisance?

Legal Definition
Nuisance (from archaic nocence, through Fr. noisance, nuisance, from Lat. nocere, "to hurt") is a common law tort. It means that which causes offence, annoyance, trouble or injury. A nuisance can be either public (also "common") or private. A public nuisance was defined by English scholar Sir J. F. Stephen as,

"an act not warranted by law, or an omission to discharge a legal duty, which act or omission obstructs or causes inconvenience or damage to the public in the exercise of rights common to all Her Majesty's subjects".

Private nuisance is the interference with the right of specific people. Nuisance is one of the oldest causes of action known to the common law, with cases framed in nuisance going back almost to the beginning of recorded case law. Nuisance signifies that the "right of quiet enjoyment" is being disrupted to such a degree that a tort is being committed.
-- Wikipedia
Legal Definition
A public nuisance is when a person unreasonably interferes with a right that the general public shares in common.

A private nuisance is when the plaintiff's use and enjoyment of her land is interfered with substantially and unreasonably through a thing or activity.

There are several defenses to this tort including contributory negligence, assumption of risk, coming to the nuisance, or statutory compliance.

The typical remedy for nuisance (either public or private) is damages. Courts may grant injunctive relief if the legal remedy is not adequate.
Legal Definition
Crim. law, torts. This word means literally annoyance; in law, it signifies, according to Blackstone, " anything that worketh hurt, inconvenience, or damage." 3 Comm. 216.

2. Nuisances are either public or com- mon, or private nuisances.

3.-1. A public or common nuisance is such an inconvenience or troublesome offence, as annoys the whole community in general, and not merely some particular person. 1 Hawk. P. C. 197; 4 Bl. Com. 166-7. To constitute a Public nuisance, there must be such 'a number of persons annoyed, that the offence can no longer be considered a private nuisance: this is a fact, generally, to be judged of by the jury. 1 .Burr. 337; 4 Esp. C. 200; 1 Str. 686, 704; 2 Chit. Cr. Law, 607, n. It is diffi- cult to define what degree of annoyance is necessary to constitute a nuisance. In rela- tion to offensive trades, it seems that when such a trade renders the enjoyment of life and property uncomfortable, it is a nuisance; 1 Burr. 333; 4 Rog. Rec. 87; 5 Esp. C. 217; for the neighborhood have a right to pure and fresh air. 2 Car. & P. 485; S. C. 12 E. C. L. R. 226; 6 Rogers' Rec. 61.

4. A thing may be a nuisance in one place, which-is not so in another; therefore the situation or locality of the nuisance must be considered. A tallow chandler seeing up his baseness among other tallow chandlers, and increasing the noxious smells of the neighborhood, is not guilty of setting up a nuisance, unless the annoyance is much increased by the new manufactory. Peake's Cas. 91. Such an establishment might be a nuisance-in a thickly populated town of merchants and mechanics, where Do such business was carried on.

5. Public nuisances arise in consequence of following particular trades, by which the air-is rendered offensive and noxious. Cro. Car. 510; Hawk. B. 1, c. 755 s. 10; 2 Ld. Raym. 1163; 1 Burr. 333; 1 Str. 686. From-acts of public indecency; as bathing in a public river, in sight of the neighbor- ing houses; 1 Russ. Cr. 302; 2 Campb. R. 89; Sid. 168; or for acts tending to a breach of the public peace, as for drawing a number of persons into a field for the pur- pose of pigeon-shooting, to the disturbance of the neighborhood; 3 B. & A. 184; S. C. 23 Eng. C. L. R. 52; or keeping a dis- orderly house; 1 Russ. Cr. 298; or a gaming house; 1 Russ. Cr. 299; Hawk . b. 1, c. 7 5, s. 6; or a bawdy house; Hawk. b. 1, c. 74, s. 1; Bac. Ab. Nuisance, A; 9 Conn. R. 350; or a dangerous animal, known to be such, and suffering him to go at large, as a large bull-dog accustomed to bite people; 4 Burn's, Just. 678; or exposing a person having a contagious disease, as the small- pox, in public; 4 M. & S. 73, 272; and the like.

6.-2. A private nuisance is anything done to the hurt or annoyance of the lands, tenements, or hereditaments of another. 3 Bl. Com. 1215; Finch, L. 188.

7. These are such as are injurious to corporeal inheritance's; as, for example, if a man should build his house so as to throw the rain water which fell on it, on my land; F. N. B. 184; or erect his. building, with- out right, so as to obstruct my ancient lights; 9 Co. 58; keep hogs or other ani- mals so as to incommode his neighor and render the air unwholesome. 9 Co. 58.

8. Private nuisances may also be in- jurious to incorporeal hereditaments. If, for example, I have a way annexed to my estate, across another man's land, and he obstruct me in the use of it, by plowing it up, or laying logs across it, and the like. F. N. B. 183; 2 Roll. Ab. 140.

9. The remedies for a public nuisance are by indicting the party. Vide, generally, Com. Dig. Action on the case for a nuisance; Bac. Ab. h. t.; Vin. Ab. h. t.; Nels. Ab. h. t.; Selw. N. P. h. t.; 3 Bl. Com. c. 13 Russ. Cr. b. 2, c. 30; 1 0 Mass. R. 72 7 Pick. R. 76; 1 Root's Rep. 129; 1 John. R. 78; 1 S. & R. 219; 3 Yeates' R. 447; 3 Amer. Jurist, 85; 3 Harr. & McH. 441; Rose. Cr. Ev. h. t.; Chit. Cr. L. Index, b. t.; Chit. Pr. Index, b. t., and vol. 1, p. 383; Bouv. Inst. Index, h. t.
-- Bouviers Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
Anything that unlawfully worketh hurt, inconvenience or damage. 3 BL Comm. 216. That class of wrongs that arise from the unreasonable, unwarrantable, or unlawful use by a person of his own property, either reni or personal, or from his own improper, indecent, or unlawful personal conduct, working an obstruction of or injury to the right of another or of the public, and producing such material annoyance, inconvenience, discomfort, or hurt that the law will presume a consequent damage. Wood, Nuis. § 1. Anything which is injurious to health, or is indecent or offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property, or unlawfully obstructs the free passage of any navigable lake or river, bay; stream, canal, or public park, square, street, or highway, is a nuisance. Civ. Code Cal. § 3479. And see Veazie v. Dwinel, 50 Me. 479 ; People v. Metropolitan Tel. Co., 11 Abb. N. C. (N. Y.) 304; Bohan v. Port Jervis Gaslight Co., 122 N. Y. 18, 25 N. E. 246, 9 L. R. A. 711; Baltimore & P. R. Co. v. Fifth Baptist Church, 137 U. S. 568, 11 Sun. Ct. 185, 34 In Ed. 784; Id., 108 U. S. 317, 2 Sup. Ct. 719, 27 L. Ed. 739; Cardington v. Frederick, 46 Ohio St. 442, 21 N. E. 766; Gifford v. Huiett, 62 Vt. 342, 19 Atl. 230; Ex parte Foote, 70 Ark. 12, 65 S. W. 706, 91 Am. St. Rep. 63; Carthage v. Munsell, 203 111. 474, 67 N. E. 831; Northern Pac. R. Co. v. Whalen, 149 U. S. 157, 13 Sup. Ct. 822, 37 In Ed. 686; Phinizy v. City Council of Augusta, 47 Ga. 266; Alien v. Union Oil Co., 59 S. C. 571, 38 S. E. 274. Classification. Nuisances are commonly classed as public and private, to which is sometimes added a third class called mixed. A public nuisance is one which affects an indefinite number of persons, or all the residents of a particular locality, or all people coming within the extent of its range or operation, although the extent of the annoyance or damage inflicted upon individuals may be unequal; and hence, though only a few persons may be actually injured or annoyed at any given time, it is none the less a public nuisance if of such a character that it must or will injure or annoy nil that portion of the general public which may be compelled to come into contact with it, or within the range of its influence. See Burnham v. Hotchkiss, 14 Conn. 317; Chesbrough v. Co.m'rs, 37 Ohio St. 508; Lansing v. Smith, 4 Wend. (N. Y.) 30, 21 Am. Dec. 89; Nolan v. New Britain, 69 Conn. 668, 38 Atl. 703; Kelley v. New York, 6 Misc. Rep. 516, 27 N. Y. Supp. 164; Kissel v. Lewis, 156 Ind. 233, 59 N. E. 478 ; Burlington v. Stockwell, 5 Kan. App. 569, 47 Pac. 988; Jones r. Chanute, 63 Kan. 243, 65 Pac. 243; Civ. Code Cal. § 3480. A private nuisance was originally defined as anything done to the hurt or annoyance of the lands, tenements, or hereditaments of another. 3 Bl. Comm. 216. But the modern "definition includes any wrongful act which destroys or deteriorates the property of another or interferes with his lawful use or enjoyment thereof, or any act which unlawfully hinders him in the enjoyment of a common or public right and causes him a special injury. Therefore, although the ground of distinction between public and private nuisances is still the injury to the community at large or, on the other hand, to a single individual, it is evident that the same thing or act may constitute a public nuisance and at the same time a private nuisance, being the latter as to any person who sustains from it, in his person or property, a special injury different from that of the general public. See Heeg v. Licht, 80 N. Y. 582, 36 Am. Rep. 654; Baltzeger v. Carolina Midland R. Co.., 54 S. C. 242, 32 S. E. 358, 71 Am. St Rep. 789 ; Kavanagh v. Barber. 131 N. Y. 211, 30 N. E. 235, 15 L. R. A. 689; Haggart v. Stehlin, 137 Ind. 43, 35 N. E. 997, 22 L. R. A. 577; Dorman v. Ames, 12 Minn. 461 (Gil. 347) ; Ackerman v. True, 175 N. Y. 353, 67 N. E. 629; Kissel v. Lewis, 156 Ind. 233, 59 N. E. 478; Willcox v. Hines, 100 Tenn. 538, 46 S. W. 297, 41 h. R. A. 278, 66 Am. St. Rep. ,770. A mixed nuisance is of the kind last described; that is, it is one which is both public and private in its effects,—public because it injures many persons or all the community, and private in that it also produces special injuries to private rights. Kelley v. New York, 6 Misc. Rep. 516, 27 N. Y. Supp. 164. Other compound and descriptive terms.
See also
  • Assize of nuisance
  • Continuing nuisance
  • Nuisance per se
-- Black's Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
Anything offensive to the sight, smell or hearing, erected or carried on in or near a public place where people dwell or pass, or have the right to pass, to their annoyance. See 108 Ind. 230, 120 Am. St. Rep. 366, 8 L. R. A. (N. S.) 471, 80 N. E. 411. See, also, 107 Am. St. Rep. 199, note.
-- Ballentine's Law Dictionary