Rylands v Fletcher (1868) LR 3 HL 330

Key point

Lord Cairns LC added the condition of non-natural use of land to the original formulation of the Rylands v Fletcher rule by Blackburn J in the Court of Exchequer

Facts

Held (House of Lords)

  • The ruling in the Court of Exchequer is affirmed
  • The rule formulated by Blackburn J in the Court of Exchequer exists in English law

Lord Cairns LC

  • If D had accumulated water in the course of a “natural user of the land” and the accumulation of water escaped, C could not have complained
  • However, if D had accumulated water in the course of a “non-natural use” of the land, and the water escaped into C’s mine, D were doing what they were doing at their own peril and would be liable for any injury the escape causes to C

Commentary

  • Both Blackburn J and Lord Cairns were at pains to insist that the tort was not a new creation, citing a range of precedent to do so, but this was clearly rejected by later scholars