Rylands v Fletcher

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  • Rylands v Fletcher
    • Claimants must satisfy the following...
      • The defendant must control the land
        • The tort will only apply where the land onto which the dangerous thing is brought is in the control of the defendant.
          • Smith v Scott (1973)
        • A defendant can also incur liability for bringing a dangerous thing onto the highway, if it then escapes onto someone’s land.
          • Rigby v Chief Constable of Northampshire (1985)
      • The defendant must have brought onto the land
        • The dangerous thing must have been accumulated or brought onto the defendants land in the course of some ‘unnatural’ use of the land.
          • This rule does not apply to damage caused by anything that naturally occurs there, this will usually cause an action in nuisance or negligence.
            • Leakey v National Trust (1980)
        • The thing must be accumulated for the purpose of the defendant, but does not necessarily mean that it also has to be for the defendants benefit.
          • Smeaton v Ilford Corporation (1954)
        • The accumulation must be through unnatural use, which is something that is more than the ordinary use of the land.
          • Rickards v Lothian (1913)
      • There must be an escape of the dangerous thing
        • The dangerous thing itself must be the thing that escapes and causes the damage.
          • Stannard v Gore (t/a wyvern tyres) (2012)
        • The thing need not be dangerous itself, but it must be likely to cause damage should an escape occur, even though it might be quite safe if it is not allowed to escape.
        • To assist the court in determining if something is dangerous it must be foreseeable that if this thing were to escape would it cause damage from the time of the accumulation.
      • There must be damage as a result of the escape
        • The dangerous thing must be the cause of the damage to the land or other property.
          • A claim for personal injury or death cannot be claimed under Rylands v Fletcher.
            • Read v J Lyons (1947)
    • Defences
      • Volenti and Common Benefit
        • A person who consents to the accumulation cannot later complain when the thing escapes and damages the land.
          • Peters v Prince of Wales Theatre (Birmingham) Ltd [1943]
      • Act of God
        • An act of God is an unforeseeable natural phenomenon, where the defence is available when the escape is caused by natural forces, in circumstances which the defendant could not have been expected to foresee or guard against.
          • Nichols v Marsland
      • Act of a Stranger
        • A defendant will not be liable where the damage is done by a third party who is not acting under the defendant’s instructions or control.
          • Box v Jubb (1879)
      • Contributory Negligence and Default of the Claimant
        • Where a claimant contributes to causing the escape of the dangerous thing, their damages can be reduced under the normal rules of contributory negligence.
          • Ponting v Noakes [1894]


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