Leakey v National Trust [1980] QB 485

Key points

  • The Privy Council case Goldman v Hargave is applied to English law
  • Subjective circumstances of D should be taken into account in the Sedleigh-Denfield line of “occupier” cases

Facts

  • C’s house was on the foot of a large mound owed by D
  • The crack in the mound appeared, to which C drew to D’s attention but D claimed that it had no responsibility for what was due to natural processes
  • A few weeks later earth from the mound sled into C’s property
  • C claimed damages in nuisance and orders for abatement

Held (Court of Appeal)

  • D was liable in nuisance as the work required to abate the erosion had not gone beyond D’s financial or other capacities

Megaw LJ

Duty of care to neighbours for hazards

  • An occupier owes a general duty of care to a neighbouring occupier in relation to a hazard on his land whether natural or man-made

Standard of care

  • The imposition of the duty of care on occupiers is reasonable due to limitations on scope of the duty imposed by the court in Goldman v Hargave: p. 524B
  • The occupier is only required to do what is reasonable in the circumstances, including the following subjective factors such as the physical ability and financial resources of the occupier if these affect his ability to remove the hazard: p. 526B
  • In some cases where a hazard requires substantial and expensive works, the occupier can discharge his duty of care by merely giving notice to the neighbour and allowing him to conduct remedial works on his land: p. 526C

Shaw LJ

Commenting on Goldman v Hargave: p. 529

  • Although it is understandable that nuisance should be kept within strict bounds due to its strict liability, the extension of nuisance into a duty to take reasonable care in individual circumstances can create fresh problems
  • However, given the authority of the Privy Council judgment it must be regarded as binding in the law of England

Commentary

  • Prior to Sedleigh-Denfield and Goldman, an occupier of land owed no positive obligation to remove hazards from his land to his neighbours, only a negative duty not to cause unreasonable interference to neighbours
  • Shaw LJ regarded Goldman as a climax of the extension of scope of nuisance and would have been reluctant to extend it further