LMS 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 establish liability for the escape of fire under the rule in Rylands, ‘the defendant must have brought onto his land things which were likely to cause and/or catch fire, and kept them in such a condition that, if they ignited, the fire would be likely to spread to the claimant’s land. To put it another way, those things must represent a recognisable risk to the owners of the adjoining land. Secondly, the actions on the part of the defendant must arise from a non-natural user of the defendant’s land.’ and ‘A non-natural user should be considered by reference to contemporary standards. The existence of statutory regulations relating to the storage of the dangerous thing(s) may preclude the operation of the rule in a particular case.’ and
‘Fire is plainly dangerous. Therefore, if the escape of fire from A’s land to B’s land was the (foreseeable) result of the storage of dangerous things that comprised a non-natural user of land by A, then, subject to the qualifications set out above, A is prima facie liable to B.’
‘An occupier has a positive duty to take reasonable steps to prevent or minimise the risk of injury or danger emanating from his land, howsoever caused. The occupier cannot discharge that duty simply by abstaining from the creation or addition to the source of danger or hazard. However, it will be a matter of fact and degree in each case as to whether what the occupier does in purported compliance with that duty was reasonable in all the circumstances.’

Peter Coulson QC
[2005] EWHC 2065 (TCC)
Fires Prevention (Metropolis) Act 1774
CitedRylands v Fletcher CEC 1865
Mr Fletcher’s Lancashire coal mine was flooded by the water from Mr Rylands’ mill reservoir in 1860-61.
Held: Mr Rylands was responsible. Blackburn J said: ‘We think that the true rule of law is, that the person who for his own purposes brings . .
CitedRickards v Lothian PC 11-Feb-1913
The claim arose because the outflow from a wash-basin on the top floor of premises was maliciously blocked and the tap left running, with the result that damage was caused to stock on a floor below.
Held: The provision of a domestic water . .
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 . .
CitedCambridge 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 . .
CitedRead v J Lyons and Co Ltd HL 1946
The plaintiff was employed by the Ministry of Defence, inspecting a weapons factory. A shell exploded injuring her. No negligence was alleged. The company worked as agent for the ministry.
Held: The respondents were not liable, since there had . .
CitedMason v Levy Auto Parts of England 1967
The defendants had a store of machinery in inflammable packings, together with a quantity of petroleum, acetylene and paints. A neighbour claimed from fire damage.
Held: They were liable for the damage when fire broke out and escaped to the . .
CitedPerry v Kendricks Transport Ltd CA 1956
The Act gave a defence to liability for a fire which started accidentally, this did not cover a fire which started by negligence. . .
CitedMusgrove v Pandelis CA 2-Jan-1919
The plaintiff ((M) rented first floor rooms above the defendant’s garage. The defendant’s employee spilt petrol which was lit, and negligently failed to control it causing a fire, damaging the plaintiff’s rooms.
Held: The Act did not provide a . .
CitedSpicer v Smee 1946
A fire resulting from a non-natural user of land (i.e. a fire to which the rule in Rylands v Fletcher applies) was outside the protection of the Act, because, in such circumstances, the relevant fire was not regarded as having been started . .
CitedJohnson v B J W Property 2002
Judge Thornton QC said: ‘With respect to Mackenna J, however, the narrow meaning given to the Act which so concerned him is one that is particularly appropriate given the Act’s historical origins since the fire in question had not escaped . .
CitedSochacki v Sas 1947
A claim was made after the escape of a fire in a domestic fireplace. The defendant had left the room for two or three hours with the fire burning, with no fire guard or fender,
Held: The use was not a non-natural use for a house, the room was . .
CitedJohnson v B J W Property 2002
Judge Thornton QC said: ‘With respect to Mackenna J, however, the narrow meaning given to the Act which so concerned him is one that is particularly appropriate given the Act’s historical origins since the fire in question had not escaped . .
CitedDonoghue (or M’Alister) v Stevenson HL 26-May-1932
Decomposed Snail in Ginger Beer Bottle – Liability
The appellant drank from a bottle of ginger beer manufactured by the defendant. She suffered injury when she found a half decomposed snail in the liquid. The glass was opaque and the snail could not be seen. The drink had been bought for her by a . .
CitedRees and Other v Skerrett CA 23-May-2001
An owner of a terrace house had demolished it, but had taken no steps to shore up or weatherproof the exposed wall of the neighbouring property. That wall suffered wind damage, and the owner of the remaining property claimed damages under their . .
CitedHolbeck Hall Hotel Ltd and Another v Scarborough Borough Council CA 22-Feb-2000
Land owned by the defendant was below a cliff, at the top of which was the claimant’s hotel. The land slipped, and the hotel collapsed. Some landslip was foreseen from natural causes, but not to the extent of this occasion.
Held: The owner of . .
CitedBurnie 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 . .
CitedE Hobbs (Farms) Limited v The Baxenden Chemical Co Limited 1992
A fire had started in Hobbs’ barn when a spark from a grinding machine fell onto combustible material/debris below the machine. The fire spread into and destroyed Gerber’s adjacent hanger. Hobbs alleged that the fire spread was due to the action of . .
CitedBalfour v Barty-King 1957
A fire started as the result of the negligent use of a blow torch by an independent contractor, damaging the plaintiff’s property. The use of fire had, therefore, been deliberate. The plaintiff argued that ‘If negligence be shown, it matters not . .
CitedBradburn v Lindsay 1983
The plaintiffs sued the owner of the adjoining house which had deteriorated so badly it had had to be demolished. The party wall was left standing but was largely unsupported.
Held: The defendant knew of the perilous state of her property (a . .
CitedLeakey v The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty CA 31-Jul-1979
Natural causes were responsible for soil collapsing onto neighbouring houses in Bridgwater.
Held: An occupier of land owes a general duty of care to a neighbouring occupier in relation to a hazard occurring on his land, whether such hazard is . .
CitedJ Doltis Limited v Issac Braithwaite and Sons (Engineers) Limited 1957
. .
CitedGoldman v Hargrave PC 13-Jun-1966
(Australia) In Western Australia, a red gum tree was struck by lightning and set on fire. The appellant had the tree cut down, but took no reasonable steps by spraying the fire with water to prevent the fire from spreading, believing that it would . .
CitedRich v Basterfield 5-Feb-1846
A landlord can be liable in nuisance for the acts of his tenant where the very nature of the letting would lead to that nuisance: ‘If a landlord lets premises, not in themselves a nuisance, but which may or may not be used by the tenant so as to . .
CitedSouthwark London Borough Council v Mills/Tanner; Baxter v Camden London Borough Council HL 21-Oct-1999
Tenants of council flats with ineffective sound insulation argued that the landlord council was in breach of the covenant for quiet enjoyment in their tenancy agreements.
Held: A landlord’s duty to allow quiet enjoyment does not extend to a . .
CitedTetley v Chitty 1986
A local council had granted planning permission to a go-kart club to develop a go-kart track on land owned by the authority, and had granted the club a seven year lease to use it for that express purpose.
Held: The council were held liable in . .
CitedMargaret Ribee v Michael Norrie CA 22-Nov-2000
An owner of a property let to tenants was liable to a neighbour injured after a fire in the property, where the fire arose in circumstances which the owner had power, through the making of rules to prevent. The damage arose from a tenant smoking in . .
CitedHussain v Lancaster City Council CA 1999
The court considerd the liability of a landlord for the acts of racial aggravation of his tenant causing damage to his neighbour. The plaintiffs were shopowners and they claimed to have suffered severe harassment from tenants which included threats, . .

Cited by:
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 . .
Principal judgmentLMS International Ltd and others v Styrene Packaging and Insulation Ltd and others TCC 30-Sep-2005
. .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Nuisance, Negligence

Updated: 16 December 2021; Ref: scu.230956