Published on June 8, 2020
1. AMALIA SULAIMAN UKM LAW SCHOOL 2020 TORT II: STRICT LIABILITY According to Justice Blackburn, what are the elements of Strict Liability? Which case laid the foundations of Strict Liability? Rylands v Fletcher  UKHL 1 House of Lords Facts: The defendant owned a mill and constructed a reservoir on their land. The reservoir was placed over a disused mine. Water from the reservoir filtered through to the disused mine shafts and then spread to a working mine owned by the claimant causing extensive damage. Held: The defendants were strictly liable for the damage caused by a non- natural use of land. Strict Liability elements according to Blackburn in R v F (1868) Justice Blackburn: “A person who, for his own purposes brings on his land, and collects and keeps there anything likely to do mischief if it escapes, must keep it at his peril and, if does not do so, he is prima facie answerable for all the damage which is the natural consequences of its escape.” • a deliberate accumulation The defendant must bring the hazardous material on to his land and keep it there. If the thing is already on the land or is there naturally, no liability will arise under Rylands v Fletcher. Giles v Walker (1890) 24 QBD 656 Seeds from some thistles on the defendant’s land blew into neighbouring land owned by the claimant and damaged his crops. The defendant was not liable as he had not brought the thistles onto his land and there cannot be liability under Rylands v Fletcher for a thing which naturally accumulates on land. Pontardawe RDC v Moore-Gwyn  1 Ch 656 Some rocks from the defendant’s land fell onto the claimant’s land. The defendant was not liable as they had not brought the rocks onto the land to accumulate them. The escape was also caused by natural events with adverse weather conditions causing an avalanche.
2. AMALIA SULAIMAN UKM LAW SCHOOL 2020 Crowhurst v Amersham Burial Board (1878) Facts: The defendant planted a yew tree on his land. The branches and leaves of the trees extended into the plaintiff’s land. The leaves of the tree are in fact poisonous to cows. The plaintiff’s horse ate the leaves and died. Held: The court held the defendant liable as planting a poisonous tree is not a natural use of land. This decision may also be justified on the basic that an ‘escape’ of the tree had occurred as the branches and leaves had encroached onto plaintiff’s land. • of things which are hazardous in the event of an escape The thing need not be inherently hazardous, it need only be a thing likely to cause damage if it escapes. Ang Hock Tai v Tan Sum Lee & Anor (1957) Facts: The plaintiff rented a shop house and lived on the first floor of the building of repairing and distributing tyres. The defendant also stored petrol for the purpose of his business. One morning the defendant’s premise caught fire. The fire spread to the first floor and the plaintiff’s wife and child died in that tragedy. Held: The court held the defendant liable under the rule in Rylands v Flecther as the petrol was a dangerous object. • in the course of a non-natural user of the land Lord Moulton: “It must be some special use, bringing with it increased danger to others, and must not merely be the ordinary use of the land or such a use as is proper for the general benefit of the community” Rickards v Lothian  AC 263 Privy Council
3. AMALIA SULAIMAN UKM LAW SCHOOL 2020 The claimant ran a business from the second floor of a building. The defendant owned the building and leased different parts to other business tenants. An unknown person had blocked all the sinks in the lavatory on the fourth floor and turned on all the taps in order to cause a flood. This damaged the claimant’s stock and the claimant brought an action based on the principle set out in Rylands v Fletcher. Held: The defendants were not liable. The act which caused the damage was a wrongful act by a third party and there was no non-natural use of land. • an actual escape There must be an escape from the defendant's land. An injury inflicted by the accumulation of a hazardous substance on the land itself will not invoke liability under Rylands v Fletcher Read v Lyons  AC 156 House of Lords The claimant was employed by the defendant in their factory which made explosives for the Ministry of Supply. During the course of her employment an explosion occurred which killed a man and injured others including the claimant. There was no evidence that negligence had caused the explosion. At trial the judge held that the case was governed by the rule in Rylands v Fletcher and liability was therefore strict. The Court of Appeal reversed this decision as the rule in Rylands v Fletcher required an escape of the hazardous matter. The claimant appealed. The House of Lords dismissed the appeal. In the absence of any proof of negligence on behalf of the defendant or an escape of dangerous thing, there was no cause of action on which the claimant could succeed. • Remoteness of damage (which is reasonably foreseeable). Cambridge Water v Eastern Counties Leather plc  2 AC 264 House of Lords Facts: The defendant owned a leather tanning business. Spillages of small quantities of solvents occurred over a long period of time which seeped through the floor of the building into the soil below. These solvents made their way to the borehole owned by the Claimant water company. The borehole was used for supplying water to local residents. The water was contaminated at a level beyond that which was considered safe and Cambridge Water had to cease using the borehole. Cambridge Water brought actions based on negligence, nuisance and the rule in Rylands v Fletcher. Held:
4. AMALIA SULAIMAN UKM LAW SCHOOL 2020 Eastern Counties Leather were not liable as the damage was too remote. It was not reasonably foreseeable that the spillages would result in the closing of the borehole. The foreseeability of the type of damage is a pre-requisite of liability in actions of nuisance and claims based on the rule in Rylands v Fletcher in the same way as it applies to claims based in negligence. The Wagon Mound No 1 case applies to determine remoteness of damage. CLAIMING DAMAGES FOR PERSONAL INJURY? Hale v Jennings Bros  1 All ER 579 The defendant operated a chair-o-plane roundabout at a fairground. One of the chairs broke loose and hit the claimant. This was held to amount to an escape for the purposes of Rylands v Fletcher. The defendant was liable for the personal injury sustained. DEFENCES Plaintiff had directly or indirectly gave consent to defendant for any elements or substance on defendant’s land. Therefore, defendant will not be held liable towards any damages occur caused by the consented elements or substance. • PLAINTIFF’S CONSENT/COMMON BENEFIT Peters v Prince of Wales Theatre  KB 73 Facts: The claimant leased (sewa) a shop adjacent to a theatre from the defendant, the owner of the theatre. The claimant’s shop sustained flood damage when pipes from the theatre’s sprinkler system burst due to icy weather conditions. The claimant brought an action based on liability under Rylands v Fletcher. Held: The defendant was not liable. The sprinkler system was equally for the benefit of the claimant and the claimant was deemed to have consented to the use of the sprinkler system since it had been installed prior to him obtaining the lease. Sheikh Amin bin Salleh v Chop Hup Seng Facts:
5. AMALIA SULAIMAN UKM LAW SCHOOL 2020 the plaintiff owned a piece of Landon which eight terrace houses were built, four of the houses being rented by the defendants. The defendants used their rented premises for the purpose f a bakery, a fact known by the plaintiff. A fire caused by the defendants’ negligence destroyed all eight houses. Held: Court found on the evidence that the plaintiff assented to or acquiesced in the use of the defendants’ premises as a bakery with an oven therein and therefore the defendants could not be liable under the rule in Rylands v Fletcher. In this case, consent or acquiescence of the plaintiff to the defendants’ activity overrode the latter’s negligence. • ACT OF GOD Carstairs v Taylor (1871) LR 6 Exchequer 217 Facts: The claimant stored rice in the ground floor of a warehouse which he leased from the defendant. The defendant used the upper floor for storage of cotton. A rat gnawed through a gutter box draining water from the roof of the warehouse. Following this, a heavy rainfall caused the roof to leak and damaged the claimant’s rice. Held: The defendant was not liable under Rylands v Fletcher. The claimant had not brought the water onto his land to accumulate it. The heavy rain and actions of the rat were classed as an act of God. Nichols v Marsland (1876) 2 ExD 1 The defendant diverted a natural stream on his land to create ornamental lakes. Exceptionally heavy rain caused the artificial lakes and waterways to be flooded and damage adjoining land. The defendant was held not liable under Rylands v Fletcher as the cause of the flood was an act of God. • WRONGFUL ACT OF A THIRD PARTY (whether that person acts outside the defendant’s control)
6. AMALIA SULAIMAN UKM LAW SCHOOL 2020 Rickards v Lothian  AC 263 Privy Council Facts: The claimant ran a business from the second floor of a building. The defendant owned the building and leased different parts to other business tenants. An unknown person had blocked all the sinks in the lavatory on the fourth floor and turned on all the taps in order to cause a flood. This damaged the claimant’s stock and the claimant brought an action based on the principle set out in Rylands v Fletcher. Held: The defendants were not liable. The act which caused the damage was a wrongful act by a third party and there was no non-natural use of land. Perry v Kendricks Transport  WLR 85 Court of Appeal Facts: The defendant kept an old coach that needed repair on their land adjoining a piece of wasteland. The claimant, a young boy of 10 approached two other boys on the wasteland close to the coach. As he got close, the boys lit a match and threw it into the petrol tank of the coach causing an explosion which left the claimant with severe burns. The claimant brought an action under the principle set out in Rylands v Fletcher. Held: The defendant was not liable as the escape was caused by the deliberate action of a third party. • PLAINTIFF’S OWN FAULT/NEGLIGENCE Ponting v Noakes (1849) 2 QB 281 Facts: The claimant’s horse died after it had reached over the defendant’s fence and ate some leaves from a Yew tree. The defendant was not liable under Rylands v Fletcher as the Yew tree was entirely in the confines of the defendant’s land and there had therefore been no escape. Charles, J:
7. AMALIA SULAIMAN UKM LAW SCHOOL 2020 "I do not see that they can be made responsible for the eating of these Yew leaves by an animal which, in order to reach them, had come upon his land. The hurt which the animal received was due to his wrongful intrusion. He had no right to be there and the owner therefore has no right to complain." • STATUTORY AUTHORITY Defendant will not be held liable if defendant had acted under the authority mandated by the statute. Authority that has been mandated to local authorities under section 72(1)(a)- (j) Local Government Act 1976.