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Public nuisance is an act affecting the public at large, or some considerable portion of it. The act must interfere with rights which members of the community might otherwise enjoy.

Ordinarily, a public nuisance does not create a civil action for any person; it is usually a crime. In certain cases when any person suffers some special damage different from what is inflicted upon the public as a whole, a civil right of action is available to the injured party.

To have a private right of action for a public nuisance, an individual must demonstrate:

  1. The existence of any personal injury which is of a higher degree than the rest of the public;
  2. Such injury has to be direct and not just a consequential injury.
  3. The injury must be shown to have a substantial character, ie suffer ‘special damages’.
Cases

Rose v Milles (1815)
In Rose v Miles (1815), the Court allowed a civil action against the defendant in the tort of nuisance for a public nuisance.

Campbell v Paddington Corporation [1911]
In Campbell v Paddington Corporation, the plaintiff was awarded damages for a public nuisance because her loss went ‘over and above the general public inconvenience’.

Winterbottom v Lord Derby (1867)
Winterbottom v Lord Derby makes clear that if the claimant cannot prove that he has suffered any special damage, i.e. more damage than suffered by the other members of the public, he cannot claim any compensation for the same.

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