Flashcards in Land Torts - Rylands v Fletcher Deck (28)
What is the Rylands v Fletcher Rule?
The Rule in Rylands v Fletcher protects an occupier against interference due to an isolated escape from (as opposed to an ongoing interference with) his/her neighbour’s land.
What are the three hurdles for claims under the Rylands v Fletcher Rule?
2. An escape of a dangerous thing in the course of a non-natural use of land
3. The Defendant may have defences
What are the details of the Rylands v Fletcher Case?
The Defendant employed some people to build a reservoir on his land. Unfortunately, it was constructed over some disused partially blocked mineshafts, which led to mine shafts on the claimant's land. When the reservoir was flooded, water flow through them and flooded the claimant's mine.
What was the finding in the Rylands v Fletcher Case?
The court said on the matter - “[T]he person who, for his own purposes, brings on his land and collects and keeps there anything [which is a non-natural use of the land] likely to do mischief if it escapes, must keep it in at his peril; and if he does not do so, is primâ facie answerable for all the damage which is the natural consequence of its escape.”
The defendant was held to be liable on the facts.
What are the four requirements of the Rylands v Fletcher Rule that can be extracted from the courts statement on the case?
(1) The defendant brings on his land for his own purposes something likely to do mischief…
(2) … it escapes…
(3) …which represents a non-natural use of land…
(4) and which causes foreseeable damage of the relevant type.
Which cases illustrate the requirement that the defendant must 'bring on to his own land, for his own purposes, something likely to do mischief'?
1. Transco v Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council
2. Stannard v Gore
What are the details of the Transco Case?
A pipe crossing the defendant’s land to service the flats it owned started leaking. The leak caused a nearby embankment to collapse, leaving a high pressure gas pipe unsupported belonging to Transco, costing £94,000 to repair.
What was the finding in the Transco Case?
It was held that the danger part of Rylands is not “at all easily satisfied”. The ‘thing’ must pose exceptional risk, which is reasonably foreseeable. There was found to be no liability on the facts.
Which case illustrates the requirement that the thing brought onto the land by the defendant must 'escape'?
Read v Lyons - Read was inspecting the defendants munitions factory, when a shell exploded injuring her. There was held to be no liability, as there had been no escape.
Which cases illustrate the requirement that there be a 'non-natural' use of land?
1. Rickards v Lothian
2. Cambridge Water Co Ltd v Eastern Counties Leather Plc
What are the details of the Rickards v Lothian Case?
A tap was left running on the defendant's property, damaging the property below.
What was the finding in the Rickards v Lothian Case?
It was held that non-natural use “must be some special use bringing with it increased danger to others, and must not merely be the ordinary use of land or such use as is proper for the general benefit of the community.”
What are the details of the Cambridge Water Case?
In this case chemicals used by the defendants in tanning leather had seeped into the ground of their factory and polluted the claimant’s well 1.3 miles away.
What was the finding of the Cambridge Water Case?
Lord Goff held non-natural use is something that is out of the ordinary and in itself dangerous. On the facts, it was held that there had been a non-natural use of land.
What is the foreseeability requirement of the damage caused, under the Rylands v Fletcher rule?
The recovery of damage suffered by a claimant may be precluded if it is found to be too remote or unforeseeable.
Where was the foreseeability requirement of the damage caused introduced into the Rylands v Fletcher Rule?
The fourth requirement to the Rylands test was added in Cambridge Water—what prevented the claimant’s recovery of damages was the fact that the harm suffered was regarded as too remote.
Under the foreseeability requirement, what exactly has to be foreseeable?
Lord Goff’s opinion is not entirely clear on these points, but the commonly held view is that it is not the escape that must be foreseeable, merely the damage resulting from the escape.
Based upon the commonly held position regarding the foreseeability requirement, what is the key/correct question to ask?
Once there has been an escape, is the damage suffered by the claimant of a type or kind that was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of such an escape?
What are the available defences for actions under the Rylands v Fletcher Rule?
1. Statutory Authority
2. Contributory Negligence
(generally applicable defences)
4. Fault of the claimant or express or implied consent
5. Escape caused by the unforeseeable act of a stranger
6. Escape caused by an 'act of god'
Which case illustrates application of the defence of fault of the claimant or express or implied consent?
Ponting v Noakes - here the claimant’s horse reached across a fence to eat poisonous leaves from the defendants land, and died. It was held that the defendant was not liable (on account of the fault of the claimant).
Which cases illustrate application of the defence of escape caused by the unforeseeable act of a stranger?
Perry v Kendricks Transport Ltd - here an unknown persons caused the explosion of a bus from which fuel had been drained. The defendant was held not to be liable.
Rickards v Lothian - here an unknown person blocked a sink on the defendant’s property causing it to flood the property below. The defendant was held not to be liable.
Which cases illustrate the application of the defence of an escape caused by an act of God?
Nichols v Marsland - Banks of several ponds on the defendant’s land collapsed after extraordinary high rainfall. The defendant was found not to be liable.
Greenock Corporation v Caledonian Railway - the Defendants built a concrete pool into the river bed, during extraordinary high rainfall it caused the river to flow into a street. Here the defendant was found to be liable as the act of god defence was said not to be applicable.
What question did Lord Goff raise regarding the position of the Rylands Rule?
In Cambridge Water, Lord Goff questioned whether the rule from Rylands was best seen as analytically distinct from nuisance or if they should be viewed as two parts of the same thing. He said - ‘it would… lead to a more coherent body of common law principles if the rule were to be regarded as essentially an extension of the law of nuisance to isolated escapes from land’.
Which case illustrates the potential overlap between the Rylands v Fletcher Rule, Private Nuisance and Negligence?
Sedleigh-Denfield v O’Callaghan
What are the details of the Sedleigh-Denfield Case?
A water pipes was installed on the defendant monasteries property. Its poor construction mentor got blocked, one monk knew this but did nothing to fix it. It subsequently flooded the claimant's property.
What was the finding of the Sedleigh-Denfield Case?
The defendant was held to be liable in private nuisance.
How does the Sedleigh-Denfield Case demonstrate the potential overlap between the Rylands v Fletcher Rule, Private Nuisance and Negligence?
The applicability of a particular action turns on what is categorised as the ‘nuisance’ or problem in the first place.
- If it is the pipe, then this is an ongoing situation and would fall in the private nuisance category.
- However, if it is the flooding of the claimant’s land then it could be viewed that the water, once accumulated behind the blockage in the pipe, had ‘escaped’, making this case sit squarely in Rylands.
- However, it also seems eminently possible that what we are talking about here is, in fact, negligence—the defendants did not act reasonably or failed to take reasonable steps to do something about the grate and the potential problem that the pipe could become blocked.