The contractor undertook to dredge a stretch of river. Due to its failure to investigate properly, the result was the release of substantial volumes of silt into the estuary, to the damage of other river users and frontagers. The act amounted to a nuisance and a public nuisance. Could damages be recovered where the claimants had been unable to quantify their losses? However difficult that question, it was reasonable for the contractor to have taken steps to mitigate the potential loss.
Held: The deposit of silt was a form of physical interference with the third parties’ land. The claimant was liable in nuisance because HWT had a right to be left to use its nature reserve for breeding purposes without having to worry whether the silt, which the claimant by its negligence had put there, would interfere with their breeding programme; that worry could only be avoided either by carrying out a study, as was in fact done, and finding out that there was no need to do anything, or by dredging out the silt; the property was physically significantly affected in as much as large amounts of salt were deposited on it; and HWT suffered further damage by reason of the claimant’s activities in as much as HWT paid for the investigation.
Schiemann LJ said: ‘The underlying policy of the law is to protect a claimant against what Markesinis and Deakin in their book on Tort Law (4th ed, 1999) describe at p.422 as ‘unreasonable interference with the claimant’s interest.’ Phrases such as ‘physical damage to land’ are portmanteau phrases which embrace the concept of land being affected and this resulting in damage to the economic interests of another’.
Schiemann LJ, Hale LJ, Rix LJ
 EWCA Civ 209,  1 Lloyd’s Rep 583,  Lloyd’s Rep IR 589,  1 All ER (Comm) 767
England and Wales
Cited – Tate and Lyle Industries Ltd v Greater London Council HL 24-Mar-1983
The plaintiff had constructed and used two jetties, and dredged a channel down to the Thames for their use. The Council constructed two terminals nearby, the result of which was to cause a build up of silt blocking the channel.
Held: The . .
Cited – Hunter and Others v Canary Wharf Ltd HL 25-Apr-1997
The claimant, in a representative action complained that the works involved in the erection of the Canary Wharf tower constituted a nuisance in that the works created substantial clouds of dust and the building blocked her TV signals, so as to limit . .
Cited – Cambridge Water Company v Eastern Counties Leather Plc HL 9-Dec-1993
The plaintiffs sought damages and an injunction after the defendant company allowed chlorinated chemicals into the plaintiff’s borehole which made unfit the water the plaintiff itself supplied.
Held: The appeal was allowed. Liability under . .
Cited – Overseas Tankship (UK) Ltd v Miller Steamship Co Pty (The Wagon Mound) (No 2) PC 25-May-1966
(New South Wales) When considering the need to take steps to avoid injury, the court looked to the nature of defendant’s activity. There was no social value or cost saving in this defendant’s activity. ‘In the present case there was no justification . .
Cited – Regina v Shamrock CACD 1994
Cited – Attorney-General v PYA Quarries Ltd CA 1957
In a relator action, an injunction was sought to prevent the respondent from emitting quantities of dust from their quarry. The court had to decide what were the constituents of the offence of a public nuisance, and how this differed from a private . .
Cited – Benjamin v Storr 1874
The plaintiff’s coffee house was badly affected by the defendant’s wagons standing for long periods in the narrow street outside for the purposes of loading and unloading goods. The wagons blocked his light and the frequent stabling of the horses . .
Appeal from – Jan De Nul (UK) Ltd v NV Royale Belge ComC 31-Jul-2000
Contractors’ liability insurance – contract for capital dredging of main shipping channel in Southampton Water – deposit of silt outside limits of dredged channel – whether insured negligent – whether silt interfered with navigation – whether . .
Cited – D 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 . .
Cited – Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd v Williams and Another CA 3-Jul-2018
Japanese Knotweed escape is nuisance
The defendant appealed against an order as to its liability in private nuisance for the escape of Japanese Knotweed from its land onto the land of the claimant neighbours. No physical damage to properties had yet been shown, but the reduction in . .
These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 07 January 2021; Ref: scu.166543