Cattle v The Stockton Waterworks: 1875

The owner of land had contracted with the plaintiff for him to build a tunnel under a road, along which there was a defective water pipe. The pipe leaked, and when the contractor started to dig, the water that had accumulated under the road flowed out, obstructing the works. This either reduced the contractor’s profit or caused him to make a loss, and he claimed in Rylands v Fletcher.
Held: The contractor had no title to claim.
Blackburn J said: ‘In the present case the objection is technical and against the merits, and we should be glad to avoid giving it effect. But if we did so, we should establish an authority for saying that, in such a case as that of Fletcher v. Rylands . . the defendant would be liable, not only to an action by the owner of the drowned mine, and by such of his workmen as had their tools or clothes destroyed, but also to an action by every workman and person employed in the mine, who in consequence of its stoppage made less wages than he would otherwise have done. And many similar cases to which this would apply might be suggested. It may be said that it is just that all such persons should have compensation for such a loss, and that, if the law does not give them redress, it is imperfect. Perhaps it may be so. But, as was pointed out by Coleridge, J., in Lumley v. Gye . . Courts of justice should not ‘allow themselves, in the pursuit of perfectly complete remedies for all wrongful acts, to transgress the bounds, which our law, in a wise consciousness as I conceive of its limited powers, has imposed on itself, of redressing only the proximate and direct consequences of wrongful acts.’ In this we quite agree.’


Blackburn J


(1875) LR 10 QB 453


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedD Pride and Partners (A Firm) and Others v Institute for Animal Health and Others QBD 31-Mar-2009
The claimants sought damages after the loss of business when the defendants’ premises were the source of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. The organism had escaped from their premises via a broken drain.
Held: Much of the damage claimed . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Land, Torts – Other

Updated: 15 May 2022; Ref: scu.331089