This post is part of a series of posts on Minnesota’s Public and Private Nuisance Laws.
Separate from public nuisance but sometimes overlapping it, Minnesota statutes also recognize private nuisance. Private nuisance is a form of damage caused by wrongful conduct. The wrongful activity may consist of a statute or ordinance violation, or it may be lawful and involve intentional conduct, negligence, or an ultrahazardous activity.
Private nuisance is defined formally as anything “injurious to health, indecent or offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property.”45
Any person whose property is damaged or whose personal enjoyment is affected by the nuisance may bring an action in court to stop the activity.46 If successful, in addition to having the private nuisance activity stopped, the person filing suit may also recover damages sustained as a result of the activity.
If the conduct both violates a public nuisance statute and interferes with an individual’s ability to freely use and enjoy property, the activity can be addressed both by the prosecutor through the public nuisance statute and by an individual’s separate private civil action for damages or an injunction.
While case law indicates a business should not be destroyed unless necessary to protect another’s rights, abatements have been ordered that have closed down legitimate businesses. Examples of business activities that Minnesota case law has recognized to be private nuisances include industrial plants transferring dust to adjacent residential property;47 a limestone quarry giving off noise, fumes, and odors;48 wastewater treatment plant odors;49 poultry and hog farm odors;50 and water and sewage runoff.51
While courts have held that agricultural activities may in some circumstances constitute a nuisance, Minnesota law contains a specific protection for established agricultural operations.52 So long as the agricultural operation is located in an area zoned for agriculture, is in compliance with federal, state, and local laws and permits, and operates according the generally accepted agricultural practices,53 then the operation may not be considered either a public or private nuisance after two years from the date the operation was established as a matter of law.54
This protection for agricultural operations does not apply to certain animal feedlot facilities specified in law, and does not prevent a prosecution for the crime of public nuisance or an action to abate a particular condition that is a public nuisance by a public authority.55 The protection also does not prevent the enforcement of zoning laws by local units of government.56
Minnesota law specifically exempts an owner of land from liability for nuisance (or any other action) for damage caused by wild animals while on the owner’s property.57 However, a person who knowingly permits a domestic animal to run at large or trespass on private property may be subject to liability in a civil action, for up to three times the damages sustained as a result of the animal’s activity.58 An action for damage in this case would not formally be considered a “nuisance”; rather, an individual would seek recovery against the animal’s owner for trespassing on the property.
For more information about civil laws, visit www.house.mn/hrd/issinfo/civil.htm.
The content of this post and any related posts has been copied or adopted from the Minnesota House of Representatives Research Department’s Information Brief, Minnesota’s Public and Private Nuisance Laws, written by legislative analyst Matt Gehring.
This post is also part of a series of posts on Minnesota’s Public and Private Nuisance Laws.
44 Minn. Stat. § 145A.04, subd. 11.
45 Minn. Stat. § 561.01.
47 Heller v. American Range Corp., 234 N.W. 316 (Minn. 1931).
48 Brede v. Minnesota Crushed Stone Co., 179 N.W. 638 (Minn. 1920).
49 Fagerlie v. City of Wilmar, 435 N.W.2d 641 (Minn. App. 1989).
50 Schrupp v. Hanson, 235 N.W.2d 822 (Minn. 1975).
51 Highview North Apts. v. County of Ramsey, 323 N.W.2d 65 (Minn. 1982).
52 “Agricultural operation” means a facility and its appurtenances for the production of crops, livestock, poultry, dairy products or poultry products, but not a facility primarily engaged in processing agricultural products. Minn. Stat. § 561.19, subd. 1(a).
53 “Generally accepted agricultural practices” means those practices commonly used by
other farmers in the county or a contiguous county in which a nuisance claim is asserted. Minn. Stat. § 561.19, subd. 1(c).
54 Minn. Stat. § 561.19.
55 The law does not protect “[a]n animal feedlot facility with a swine capacity of 1,000 or more animal units as defined in the rules of the Pollution Control Agency for control of pollution from animal feedlots, or a cattle capacity of 2,500 animals or more.” Minn. Stat. § 561.19, subd. 2(c).
56 Minn. Stat. § 561.19, subd. 2(c).
57 Minn. Stat. § 561.051.
58 Minn. Stat. § 561.09.