In legal theory, what's called a private nuisance occurs whenever someone prevents or disturbs your use or enjoyment of your property. For example, if your neighbor lets his dog bark all night, preventing you from sleeping, that's a private nuisance. If the barking persists and causes you real discomfort after you ask that the dog be kept quiet, you can sue.
To successfully sue someone for causing a private nuisance, you must prove that:
A public nuisance, by contrast, means that someone is acting in a way that causes a group of people to suffer a health or safety hazard or lose the peaceful enjoyment of their property. For example, lots of noisy airplanes suddenly begin flying low over a residential area, or a chemical plant lets toxic fumes drift over a neighboring property. Public nuisance suits are often initiated by groups of individuals who all file small claims suits at more or less the same time.
To successfully sue a person or group of people for creating a public nuisance, you must prove all the facts listed above relating to private nuisance and also that:
One fairly common example of this phenomenon involves the filing of multiple small claims lawsuits against drug-selling neighbors or their landlords.
Try mediation before filing a lawsuit against a neighbor. It is very difficult to put a dollar value on lawsuits against neighbors for antisocial acts, no matter how annoying. In addition, filing suit usually makes long-term relationships worse. For these reasons, disputing neighbors should always try mediation before turning to small claims court.