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"Nuisance Person" re: Alice Krengel

Minnesota House of Representatives
Research Department View

Can the public nuisance law be used to abate nuisance activity that is not associated with a building?

During the three-year period from 1996 to 1999, Minnesota law15 permitted the filing of a civil action against an individual for engaging in nuisance activity16 without requiring any connection House Research Department October 2000 between the activity and a building. This law, known as the “person as nuisance” law, was intended to address specified nuisance activities conducted in places (e.g., streets, sidewalks, or other public areas) other than the kinds of structures and private premises that are subject to thepublic nuisance statute.

According to this law, any resident of the neighborhood or any neighborhood organization in the area where the nuisance activity occurred could file the nuisance action. Alternatively, the neighborhood resident or organization could ask the local prosecuting attorney to file the action.

Proof of a nuisance could be established by clear and convincing evidence that the respondent engaged in nuisance activity during two or more behavioral incidents within the past 12 months.

The law authorized two defenses to the nuisance action: that the respondent was coerced into committing the nuisance activity or that the prosecution of the nuisance was motivated by unlawful discrimination against the respondent, as defined in the state Human Rights Act. Finally, the law provided the following remedies:

• the issuance of a permanent injunction against further nuisance activity;
• the award of costs and attorney’s fees to the prevailing party; and
• a damage award equal to either the amount of actual damages caused by the nuisance or
exemplary damages of $500 per incident, whichever amount is greater.

When this “person as nuisance” law was enacted in 1996, the legislature considered it to be an experiment and, therefore, included a three-year “sunset” date in the original legislation. This sunset date was not extended or eliminated by subsequent legislative action and, as a result, the law was repealed effective August 1, 1999.