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Tort Of Rylands V Fletcher Notes

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This is an extract of our Tort Of Rylands V Fletcher document, which we sell as part of our GDL Tort Law Notes collection written by the top tier of Cambridge/Bpp/College Of Law students.

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TORT OF RYLANDS V FLETCHER (1866)

Rule per Blackburn J (Lord Cairns added the term 'non-natural user' in the HL):
o "Where the defendant brings onto his land anything likely to do mischief if it escapes, he is liable for any foreseeable damage caused by the escape of that non-natural use onto the Claimants land"
 1) That the defendant brought something onto his land;
 2) That the defendant made a "non-natural use" of his land (per Lord Cairns, LC);
 3) The thing was something likely to do mischief if it escaped;
 4) The thing did escape and cause damage.
o This is a strict liability rule
Rylands v Fletcher (1866) - Ds employed independent contractors to construct a reservoir on their land. Contractors discovered disused miens but failed to fill them properly. When they flooded the reservoir the water flooded through the mines onto the adjoining property of the plaintiffs land.
o Held liable in CA and HoL
A great deal of academic debate about the relationship:
o Some think RvF is a new type of tort, others argue it is merely a sort of nuisance.
o SCHOLARS
Examples:
o Cambridge Water v Eastern Counties Leather [1994] -
spillages of solvent from D's leather tanning business accumulated over years in the soil, eventually reaching a borehole owned by the Claimant water company,
contaminating it and rendering it unusable.
 Held that D was not liable as the damage was too remote.
 Lord Goff said that the genesis of RvF is a particular application of the tort of nuisance to isolated escapes.
This is unconvincing, as the definition is very different.
o If they are the same then for RvF you must have an interest in lands being affected and it should not cover personal liability
 Has been been interepreted as a subspecies of private nuisance sicne. .
o Transco Plc v Stockport MBC [2003] - D council were responsible for the maintenance of the pipe work supplying water to a block of flats. An undetected leak caused pressure to build around C's gas main. Embankment around this main collapsed causing risk of danger. Claimant took action to avoid this danger then sought to recover costs of remedial work.
 Held that the defendant was not liable. The council's use of land was not a non-natural use.

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