Halsey v Esso Petroleum [1961] 2 All ER 145

Key points

  • Whether an interference amounts to an unreasonable user can depend on the time at which it occurs
  • Interference not carried out within D’s land can be attributable to D’s mode of use of the land


  • C owned a house nearby D’s oil depot
  • D’s oil depot contained steam boilers that emitted acid smuts that damaged C’s car and washing hung out to dry
  • Night shifts at the depot led to noise at night from the boilers and from heavy vehicles (oil tankers) going to and leaving the refinery

Held (High Court)

  • D was liable in nuisance for
    1. Noise from boilers and vehicles during the night shift
    2. Smell emitting from the boilers
    3. Damage to C’s car and clothing
  • D was also liable under Rylands v Fletcher for the damage to C’s car and clothing
  • An injunction was granted against the operation of the depot and oil tankers during the night shift and against the smell at all hours

Veale J

  • Injury to health was not a necessary ingredient in the cause of action for nuisance by smell
  • The smell went beyond a triviality and was more than would affect a sensitive person, it was, in view of its frequency, an actionable nuisance
  • The noise was an inconvenience materially interfering with the ordinary comfort of human existence according to the standards of ordinary and reasonable persons in Fulham
  • The noise from the oil tankers are attributable to D’s mode of operation of the oil depot