Public Nuisance

What Is a Public Nuisance?

A public nuisance occurs when a person or entity (including private businesses, Cities, Towns, etc…) unreasonably interfere with a common right of the general public. The unreasonable interference could be a disturbance related to public safety, health, comfort, convenience, or it may disrupt the public peace so much that people find it impossible to assemble or carry out a public meeting. Displays of public nuisance may keep a person from carrying out their rights or, at their most basic level, hurt someone’s ability to live their normal life.

Who Can Seek Recovery for Injury Caused by a Public Nuisance?

In the majority of cases the correct party to seek relief for a public nuisance is a public official such as the Attorney General, not a private individual person or business (for example, a homeowner). This is true even if the private individual or business has suffered the same type of interference or harm to a greater extent or degree than the general public. However, it is well settled in Massachusetts law that in situations where conduct constitutes a public nuisance causes special damage (a unique harm) to an individual private person or business of a direct and substantial character is not suffered by the general public, private person or business may commence an action to recover for the injuries suffered.

In such a case the injury suffered by the private person or business is said to “differ in kind” rather than “degree” from that suffered by the general public. An private person or business who sustains a special and direct harm because of a public nuisance created by a public entity potentially has a claim against a municipality (i.e. City, Town, Village) that created such a nuisance, but not if the public nuisance is created by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Examples of a Public Nuisance

A Public nuisance can take many forms but some of the most common examples include the following:

  • Obstruction of a public way (streets, sidewalks, highway) with personal property such as a motor vehicle.
  • Obstruction of a watercourse causing the water to flow onto a public way (e.g. blocking the flow of a river or stream, which results in the flooding of a highway).
  • A manufacturer polluting a river used by a town as a water source.

If you believe that you have been harmed by a public nuisance case please contact the experienced public nuisance lawyers of Calabrese Law Associates in Boston and Burlington MA, as soon as possible to get advice on how to proceed with recovering for the injuries you have suffered.

How a Public Nuisance Differs from a Private Nuisance

The easiest way to distinguish between a public and private nuisance is to use the below chart and compare these definitions with your particular situation.

Public Nuisance

Private Nuisance

A public nuisance occurs when a person or entity (including private businesses, Cities, Towns, etc…) unreasonably interfere with a common right of the general public.A private nuisance occurs when a person or business creates, maintains, or permits an activity or condition that causes an unreasonable and substantial inference with another person’s use and enjoyment of their property.


As mentioned above, the key distinguishing factor between a public and private nuisance is that a public nuisance is an unreasonable inference with a right of the general public (example, using a public road) while a private nuisance is an unreasonable inference with a person’s use of his or her own land.

How to Contact the Experienced Public Nuisance Lawyers at Calabrese Associates in Boston and Burlington, Massachusetts

You have a right to enjoy public space without the intrusion of outside annoyances. To keep public spaces as welcoming as possible, public nuisances should be addressed quickly to get rid of the problem and return the space to its proper use. You may have claim to recover for injuries suffered as a result of a public nuisance.

Calabrese Associates are experienced in advising clients on nuisance-related issues. The firm’s attorneys can talk with you about your rights and the most effective manner to proceed with seeking recovery at your convenience. Call us at 617-340-6623 or write us now.