Works carried out by virtue of a statutory authority are a recognised exemption to liability under the rule in Rylands -v- Fletcher. The defendant’s liability in Rylands: ‘could simply have been placed on the defendants’ failure of duty to take reasonable care’.
The rule in Rylands v Fletcher is excluded for works constructed or conducted under statutory authority.
Sellers LJ, delivering the judgment of the Court of Appeal, said: ‘Where there is a mandatory obligation . . there would be, in our opinion, no liability if what had been done was that which was expressly required by statute to be done or was reasonably incidental to that requirement and was done without negligence.’
 2 QB 806
England and Wales
Explained – 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 . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 11 August 2021; Ref: scu.188032