Burnie Port Authority v General Jones Property Ltd: 1994

(High Court of Australia) The court treated the rule in Rylands v Fletcher as absorbed by the principles of ordinary negligence. The majority were influenced by the difficulties of interpretation and application to which the rule had given rise, the progressive weakening of the rule by judicial decision, by recognition that the law of negligence had been very greatly developed and expanded since Rylands v Fletcher was decided and by a belief that most claimants entitled to succeed under the rule would succeed in a claim for negligence anyway: ‘Where a duty of care arises under the ordinary law of negligence, the standard of care exacted is that which is reasonable in the circumstances. It has been emphasised in many cases that the degree of care under that standard necessarily varies with the risk involved and that the risk involved includes both the magnitude of the risk of an accident happening and the seriousness of the potential damage if an accident should occur . . even where a dangerous substance or dangerous activity of a kind which might attract the rule in Rylands v Fletcher is involved, the standard of care remains ‘that which is reasonable in the circumstances, that which a reasonably prudent man would exercise in the circumstances’: Adelaide Chemical and Fertiliser Co Ltd v Carlyle [1940] 64CLR514 at page 523. In the case of such substances or activities, however, a reasonably prudent person would exercise a higher degree of care. Indeed, depending upon the magnitude of the danger, the standard of ‘reasonable care’ may involve ‘a degree of diligence so stringent as to amount practically to a guarantee of safety”

Mason CJ
[1994] 120 ALR 42, (1994) 179 CLR 520
ExplainedRylands 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 by:
CitedTransco 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 . .
CitedLMS International Ltd and others v Styrene Packaging and Insulation Ltd and others TCC 30-Sep-2005
The claimants sought damages after their premises were destroyed when a fire started in the defendants neighbouring premises which contained substantial volumes of styrofoam. They alleged this was an unnatural use of the land.
Held: To . .
CitedStannard (T/A Wyvern Tyres) v Gore CA 4-Oct-2012
The defendant, now appellant, ran a business involving the storage of tyres. The claimant neighbour’s own business next door was severely damaged in a fire of the tyres escaping onto his property. The court had found him liable in strict liability . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Commonwealth, Nuisance, Negligence

Updated: 21 December 2021; Ref: scu.188013