Rylands v Fletcher


Rylands v Fletcher

1868- 'a person who, for his own purposes, brings on his land and keeps there anything likely to do mischief if it escapes, must do so at his peril, and, if he does not do so , he is prima facie answerable for all damage which is the natural consequence of the escape' 

Elements of the tort:

  • Defendant must control the land
  • Something must be bought onto the land or accumulated for unnatural use
  • That 'something' must be dangerous
  • The dangerous thing must escape
  • There must be reasonably foreseeable damage. 

Defendant must control the land- Smith v Scott

Something must be bought onto the land or accumulated for unnatural use- Cambridge Water Co 

Transco v Stockport Met- 'ordinary user is a preferable test to natural user, making it clear the rule in R v F is engaged only when the defendants use is shown to be extraordinary and unusual.'

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R v F

That 'something' must be dangerous- no definition of what is dangerous. Examples include gas, electricity, poisionous fumes, a flage pole and a chair and occupant from a chair-o-plane ride. Transco Plc and AG v Corke. 

The dangerous thing must escape- Cambridge Water and Read v Lyons.

Damage caused must be reasonably foreseeable- Cambridge Water Co and Transco Plc.

Accidental fire- Statute- Fire Prevention (Metropolis) Act 1774 s86- no action to lie against a person where a fire accidently begins. 

Negliegnt- Filliter v Phippard 1847 (doesnt apply to negligent fires) 

Rylands v Fletcher: Mason v Levey Autoparts of England 1967- had brought scrap tyres onto the land, caught fire and spread to claimants land. To hold defendant liable one must show: 'he brought onto his land things likely to catch fire and kept them there in such conditions that if they did ignite the fire would be likely to spread to the claimants land and he did so in the course of non natural land use, and the things ignited and the fire spread.' 

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R v F

Stannard v Gore- differs completely- Tyres on fire due to electrical fault and spread to the claimants property. Under R v F he wasnt held liable. The spread was the fire, not the tyres so there was no escape of danger. Here R v F didnt apply. 


Common benefit (consent)- if claimant recieves benefit from things accumulated they are said to consent to the accumulation. Peters v Prince of Wales Theatre. 

Fault of the complainant- Ponting v Noakes

Act of a stranger- Box v Jubb

Act of God- Nichols v Marsland.

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