In legal terms, the term nuisance refers to the unreasonable or unlawful use of property in a way that causes damage to others. This damage is caused by preventing them from enjoying their own property. Some common examples of nuisance include, but may not be limited to:

  • Noxious smells;
  • Unreasonably loud noises;
  • The unauthorized burning of materials;
  • Posting obscene or indecent signs or pictures; and
  • Illegal gambling.

In some situations, nuisance may be considered as a crime.

Nuisance could also serve as grounds for eviction, if a tenant is the responsible party for the nuisance. Public nuisance affects several members of the public, or the public at large. An example of this would be the noxious fumes that are emitted from a factory. Alternatively, private nuisance only affects a limited number of people. An example of this would be constant, unreasonably loud music that is affecting your neighbors.

Civil tort law is a considerably broad area of law covering wrongdoing by one individual against another. A tort is any civil wrong, other than a breach of contract, that causes harm or loss. Under this definition, a nuisance can be considered as a tort. The person or entity that commits the wrongdoing may be held liable for the loss or damage they cause.

Tort law is intended to compensate victims, and attempt to deter or discourage wrongdoing on the part of the defendant. Additionally, tort law provides a way for injured parties to recover monetary damages for foreseeable harm that was caused by, or was the direct result of, the other party’s breach of their duty of care. Here, the standard of care is that of a reasonable person in a similar situation.

In terms of tort law, wrongdoing includes things that:

  • Cause physical or economic injury;
  • Cause pain and suffering;
  • Violate privacy, property, and/or constitutional rights; and/or
  • Damage a reputation.

What Is Negligence?

Negligence is a legal theory which allows injured parties to recover for the carelessness of others. A person is considered to be negligent if they were careless, given the circumstances of the situation.

There are four elements of negligence that must be shown in order to recover for injuries caused by someone’s negligence.

  1. Duty: A duty is the responsibility one person owes to another. Generally speaking, people going about their day-to-day owe each other a duty of reasonable care. This is the level of care that any “ordinary and prudent person” would use in the same situation;
  2. Breach: Breach occurs when a person’s level of care falls below the level that is required by their duty;
  3. Causation: The element of causation states that the breach of a duty must be the cause of injury. The legal test for causation is ‘but for’ one party’s actions, the injury would not have occurred; and
  4. Damages: Generally speaking, there must be some sort of harm that occurred. The type of injury or harm can vary, from property damage to emotional stress and lost wages.

In order to successfully determine that the other party was negligent, all of the above elements need to be present. If one element cannot be proven, negligence cannot be established.

Possibly the most obvious example of negligence would be personal injury, such as a vehicle collision. However, negligence is a flexible idea that can appear in many contexts. Emotional harm such as post traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) developing because of negligent conduct would also be considered cause for a lawsuit.

An employer could be negligent by not providing an employee with proper safety equipment which would have prevented an injury. An employer may also be negligent in terms of training and supervision. Businesses may act negligently by making faulty goods that cause injury. An example of this would be how negligently making or designing goods for sale can also result in a lawsuit.

Can A Neighbor Be Held Responsible For Objects Falling, Dropping, Or Blowing Onto My Land?

When objects or substances persistently fall, drop, or are blown onto your land, you may be entitled to relief if they cause property damage.

Generally speaking, a person is responsible for their actions that are done in a negligent manner and result in some type of damage. This is where negligence would apply. However, a neighbor who maintains their property in such a way that causes harm to an adjoining piece of land could be held responsible for any damage that results from their property maintenance.

Some common examples include, but may not be limited to:

  • A pile of dirt that slides down to a property below;
  • A smokestack that deposits ash, cinders, and other substances on nearby property;
  • A portion of a retaining wall which falls onto an adjoining property; and/or
  • A pile of lumber that falls onto a neighbor’s property.

Courts generally rule that people with property in the vicinity of a farm cannot recover damages when dust and weeds blow onto their land. However, depending on the severity of the dust pollution, a nuisance claim may be cognizable.

What Are Some Examples Of Remedies For Nuisance Claims?

If a nuisance occurs, the court may order the responsible party to stop or limit the activity by issuing an injunction. A legal injunction is a court order which instructs a party to do, or cease doing, specific actions. This order is backed by the court’s power of coercion; meaning, courts are able to coerce parties into complying with the injunctions by using criminal or civil penalties.

The parties that are affected by the nuisance may also be entitled to monetary damages. In terms of criminal nuisance, the responsible party may be jailed and/or fined.

In order to recover from a responsible party in civil court, you must show the following elements:

  • Your neighbor is engaging in an activity that seriously annoys you;
  • Your neighbor’s activities have prevented you from rightfully and legally enjoying your own property;
  • The neighbor is actually responsible for the activity that is preventing you from enjoying your own property;
  • The activities conducted by your neighbor are unlawful and/or unreasonable; and
  • The court could reasonably remedy the problem either by issuing an injunction, or by awarding damages.

There are some activities which violate local zoning laws or ordinances, such as construction. In such cases, your city attorney or town counsel may be able to help you bring an action against your neighbor. Additionally, if you live in a condominium, cooperative, or planned community, the unreasonable conduct may be prohibited by your bylaws or regulations. Your homeowner’s association may be able to help you enforce the restriction against your neighbor.

If you believe that the activities of another party constitute a nuisance, there are some specific steps you should take. First, you should write to the responsible party and request that they stop the activity. You may also contact the police or law enforcement in order to file a complaint. Next, you should contact an attorney to learn about your rights and legal options.

Do I Need An Attorney For Objects Falling, Dropping, And/Or Blowing On My Land?

If you are experiencing issues associated with a nuisance or negligence, you will need to contact an experienced and local real estate lawyer. As previously mentioned, an attorney can inform you of your legal options and rights under the laws of your specific state. An experienced real estate attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.