Torts. A public nuisance is a nuisance that affects an entire community or neighborhood at the same time. The determinative factor for a public nuisance is that the act affects a public right, such as the right to clean air, or public safety.
A public entity has standing to bring a public nuisance claim. If that claim is brought by an individual rather than a public entity, the action is deemed a privately brought public nuisance. In such claims, the private individual must present evidence that a public nuisance exists and that he or she has suffered a harm that is different in kind, and not just degree, from the harm suffered by the public. Once a plaintiff shows special injury, the court will apply private nuisance law, which governs special injury claims for damages.
In a privately brought public nuisance action, the public and private aspects of the nuisance are dependant upon one another. Thus, if a plaintiff fails to meet the elements of a public nuisance, the “private aspect” of the nuisance claim falls with it. A legally insufficient public nuisance action cannot convert into a private nuisance action where the plaintiff has failed to meet the requisite elements of special injury.