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Private nuisance concerns the interference with another person’s land or life. For an actionable claim, the interference must be unreasonable. The harm caused must be significant and of a kind that would affect an average person or property. For example, an individual with sensitive hearing might not be successful in claiming loud sounds coming from a neighbor’s house as a nuisance if no one else living nearby has a problem with that sound.


Bamford v Turnley
Bamford v Turnley
is important for defining private nuisance in tort.

Proving nuisance

There are two main types of nuisance: (1) direct injury to the claimant’s land, and (2) interference with the use and enjoyment of land. The Court applies different tests depending on which one is alleged.

1 – Direct interference with the claimant’s land

St Helen’s Smelting Co v Tipping [1865]
In St Helen’s Smelting Co v Tipping, the House of Lords distinguished between a nuisance which causes damage to property and that which interferes with the claimant’s use and enjoyment of their land. For damage to property, the case suggests the claimant only needs to show the defendant actually caused damage.

2 – interference with the use and enjoyment of land

Not every interference with the use and enjoyment of land constitutes a nuisance. Instead, the interference caused must be ‘unreasonable’ to bring an action in tort. Thus, a person having his house near a road cannot claim for the inconvenience caused by traffic on a road. Similarly, a person cannot sue his neighbor for scent coming from their house from cooking.

The Court considers a number of factors when asking whether the interference is unreasonable.

Sturges v Bridgman (1879)
In Sturges v Bridgman, the Court considered the character of the locality when deciding whether the defendant’s interference was unreasonable.

Robinson v Kilvert (1889)
In Robinson v Kilvert, the Court considered the sensitivity of the claimant when deciding whether the defendant’s interference was unreasonable.

Heath v Mayor of Brighton (1908)
Heath v Mayor of Brighton is another case where the claimant’s unusual sensitivity meant the defendant’s interference was not unreasonable.

Christie v Davey (1893)
In Christie v Davey, the Court awarded an injunction against the defendant for nuisance, because their malicious motives to cause the claimant discomfort meant their actions were not legitimate.

Bradford Corporation v Pickles [1895]
In Bradford Corporation v Pickles, the House of Lords held that a lawful and reasonable act does not become an unreasonable interference merely because it has been done with an evil motive.

Hollywood Silver Fox Farm Ltd v Emmett [1936]
In Hollywood Silver Fox Farm Ltd v Emmett, the Court distinguished the case from Robinson v Kilvert and Bradford Corporation v Pickles.

Active and Passive Nuisance

A person can be held liable in nuisance for an ‘active’ and ‘passive’ nuisance. An active nuisance flows directly from the act of the defendant. A ‘passive’ nuisance is one that flows from either the act of a stranger or of nature. The following cases concern when a defendant will be liable for a ‘passive’ nuisance.

Sedleigh-Denfield v O’Callaghan [1940]
In Sedleigh-Denfield v O’Callaghan, the Court clarified when a person is liable in nuisance for the act of a stranger. In the case, the defendant was held liable because they had ‘continued’ and ‘adopted’ the nuisance.

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