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Sedleigh-Denfield v O’Callaghan

[1940] AC 880

Case summary last updated at 19/01/2020 17:25 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case Sedleigh-Denfield v O’Callaghan

A trespasser had installed a pipe on D’s land to carry off rain water without P’s permission. P later became aware of it, maintained it and used it. However it eventually became clogged up and caused sewage to spill onto P’s land. P sued D for damages and HL allowed the claim on the grounds that, once P became aware of the pipe they were responsible for it and by allowing to get clogged up and damage D’s land, they were liable for nuisance. 
 
Maugham VC: So long as the owner of the land causing the harm knew or is taken to have known of the cause of the problem (absentee owners are included), then the fact that it was installed without their permission is irrelevant. “An occupier of land is liable for the continuance of a nuisance created by others, e.g., by trespassers, if he continues or adopts it… an occupier of land "continues" a nuisance if with knowledge or presumed knowledge of its existence he fails to take any reasonable means to bring it to an end though with ample time to do so. He "adopts" it if he makes any use of the erection, building, bank or artificial contrivance which constitutes the nuisance.”

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