The defendant colliers placed waste from the mine in a huge heap. Rain cause the heap to slip, damaging nearby properties. the landslide in question was of what counsel described as an ‘enormous mass of rubbish’, some 500,000 tons of mineral waste tipped on a steep hillside.
Held: The case fell within Rylands, and the defendants were liable for damage caused by the escape of the spoil, and without evidence of negligence. Any licence to deposit waste did not allow any negligent system for such deposits.
As to the basis of liability, Viscount Haldane said: ‘For if such rainfall as could make this enormous heap of stuff slide was a possible occurrence, it was negligent to put it there without taking adequate precautions to secure its stability. The liability may be based on actual negligence, as I have just suggested, or it may be established merely by showing that the hillside was steep, and that to pile rubbish on it in a large heap was to put a dangerous [later described as artificial] structure there, which was so put at the risk of the company should damage result. The line of demarcation between the proof of negligence and the proof of what is necessary to bring such a case within the well known principle of Rylands v. Fletcher is but a faint one in such circumstances as we are now considering.’
 1 AC 521, (19210) 90 LJ Ch 221, (19210) 125 LT 98, (19210) 85 JP 129, (19210) 37 TLR 343, (19210) 19 LGR 145
England and Wales
Applied – Rylands v Fletcher HL 1868
The defendant had constructed a reservoir to supply water to his mill. Water escaped into nearby disused mineshafts, and in turn flooded the plaintiff’s mine. The defendant appealed a finding that he was liable in damages.
Held: The defendant . .
Cited – Transco plc v Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council HL 19-Nov-2003
Rylands does not apply to Statutory Works
The claimant laid a large gas main through an embankment. A large water supply pipe nearby broke, and very substantial volumes of water escaped, causing the embankment to slip, and the gas main to fracture.
Held: The rule in Rylands v Fletcher . .
Cited – Anthony and others v The Coal Authority QBD 28-Jul-2005
The claimants lived adjacent to an old coal tip, which caught fire spontaneously and burned for three years. They claimed in nuisance. The defendant argued that the risk of spontaneous ombustion was not reasonable, and that the use was safe.
Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.188015