'The Essence of Private Nuisance'


'The Essence of Private Nuisance'

Room 223, Level 2
Melbourne Law School
185 Pelham Street Carlton


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T: 83446589


One meaning of the word ‘essence’ is the feature or set of features that defines a thing. The claim in this paper is that the essence of the tort of private nuisance in this sense is interference with the use and enjoyment of the plaintiff’s land. This claim is hardly a radical one. Indeed, it is entirely orthodox. Nevertheless, the claim needs to be defended because the orthodox definition of private nuisance has come under attack recently, and there is a danger that without a robust defence of that definition the coherence and utility of the tort will be compromised. In this paper Professor Nolan seeks to provide such a defence.

The paper is divided into four parts. In the first part, Professor Nolan shows just how orthodox it is to define private nuisance by reference to interference with the use and enjoyment of land. In the second part, he summarises two recent challenges to that definition, one of which he calls the ‘physical invasion’ view, and one of which he calls the ‘prioritisation of land uses’ view. In the third part, he defends the orthodox definition against these two challenges. And in the fourth and final part he looks more closely at this defining idea of an interference with the use and enjoyment of land, and consider its implications for the scope of the nuisance tort.

Donal Nolan is Professor of Private Law at the University of Oxford, and the Francis Reynolds and Clarendon Fellow and Tutor in Law at Worcester College, Oxford. His research interests lie in tort and contract, and he has published on a wide range of topics within those fields, although his current focus is on the law of negligence, the law of private nuisance, and the interplay between tort and public law. Donal has held Visiting Professorships in the Universities of Florida and Trento, and is a Senior Fellow of the University of Melbourne. He is also a founding member of the World Tort Law Society.

This Public Seminar is a Brown Bag event.


  • Professor Donal Nolan
    Professor Donal Nolan, University of Oxford