Marcic v Thames Water Utilities Limited: HL 4 Dec 2003

The claimant’s house was regularly flooded by waters including also foul sewage from the respondent’s neighbouring premises. He sought damages and an injunction. The defendants sought to restrict the claimant to his statutory rights.
Held: The damages were restricted to the statutory ones. The defendant was regulated under the 1991 Act by the Director-General, who had enforcement powers. By 18(8), when a contravention occurred the means of enforcement provided was to be the sole remedy. The water company was not a normal land owner, but rather operated by virtue of the statutory scheme, and the statutory remedies excluded the common law ones. ‘Direct and serious interference of this nature with a person’s home is prima-facie a violation of a person’s right to respect for his private and family life (Article 8) and of his entitlement to peaceful enjoyment of his possessions (Article 1 of the First Protocol). The burden of justifying this interference rests with Thames Water. ‘ Even so, the claim under human rights law failed because of the existence of the statutory remedy. That scheme struck a reasonable balance. Parliament had acted well within its bounds as policy maker.

Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, Lord Steyn, Lord Hoffmann, Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord Scott of Foscote
[2003] UKHL 66, Times 05-Dec-2003, Gazette 29-Jan-2004, [2004] 2 AC 42, [2003] 50 EGCS 95, [2003] 3 WLR 1603, [2004] 1 All ER 135, [2003] NPC 150, 91 Con LR 1, [2004] BLR 1, [2004] UKHRR 253, [2004] Env LR 25, [2004] HRLR 10
House of Lords, Bailii
Water Industry Act 1991 18(8) 94(1), European Convention on Human Rights 8
England and Wales
Appeal fromThames Water Utilities Limited v Marcic CA 7-Feb-2002
The claimant owned land over which sewage and other water had spilled from the appellant’s sewage works. His claim having been dismissed under Rylands v Fletcher, and there being no statutory means of obtaining compensation, the judge was asked to . .
CitedRobinson v Workington Corporation CA 1897
Mr Robinson’s houses were damaged by water overflowing from the council’s public sewers. The sewers were adequate until new houses were built. He claimed damages in respect of the council’s failure to build a new sewer of sufficient dimensions to . .
CitedPasmore v Oswaldtwistle Urban District Council HL 1898
Where an Act creates an obligation, and enforces the performance in a specified manner, it is a general rule that performance cannot be enforced in any other manner.
Earl of Halsbury LC said: ‘The principle that where a specific remedy is given . .
CitedHesketh v Birmingham Corporation 1924
The court rejected a claim for nuisance where a claim was available under the 1875 Act. . .
CitedSmeaton v Ilford Corporation ChD 1954
Overloading caused the corporation’s foul sewer to erupt through a manhole and discharge ‘deleterious and malodorous matter’ into Mr Smeaton’s garden.
Held: The authority were not liable. e connections with the sewer and to discharge their . .
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 . .
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 . .
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 . .
CitedDelaware Mansions Limited and others v Lord Mayor and Citizens of the City of Westminster HL 25-Oct-2001
The landowner claimed damages for works necessary to remediate damage to his land after encroachment of tree roots onto his property.
Held: The issue had not been properly settled in English law. The problem was to be resolved by applying a . .
CitedHatton and Others v The United Kingdom ECHR 8-Jul-2003
More Night Flights No Infringement of Family Life
The claimants complained that the respondent had acted to infringe their rights. They were residents living locally to Heathrow Airport. They claimed the respondent had increased the number of night flights, causing increased noise, but without . .
CitedBaron v Portslade Urban District Council 1900
The local authority was held liable for omitting to clean a sewer. The existence of a procedure for the enforcement of statutory duties did not exclude common law remedies for common law torts, such as a nuisance arising from failure to keep a sewer . .
CitedPride of Derby and Derbyshire Angling Association Ltd v British Celanese Ltd CA 1953
The plaintiff brought an action for nuisance against the local authority for having discharged insufficiently treated effluent into the river Derwent.
Held: The plaintiffs: ‘have a perfectly good cause of action for nuisance, if they can show . .
CitedBuckley v The United Kingdom ECHR 25-Sep-1996
The Commission had concluded, by a narrow majority, that the measures taken by the respondent in refusing planning permission and enforcing planning orders were excessive and disproportionate, even allowing a margin of appreciation enjoyed by the . .
At First InstanceMarcic v Thames Water Utilities Ltd TCC 14-May-2001
. .
At First instanceMarcic v Thames Water Utilities Ltd TCC 10-Jul-2001
. .

Cited by:
CitedLough and others v First Secretary of State Bankside Developments Ltd CA 12-Jul-2004
The appellants challenged the grant of planning permission for neighbouring land. They sought to protect their own amenities and the Tate Modern Gallery.
Held: The only basis of the challenge was under article 8. Cases established of a breach . .
CitedAndrews v Reading Borough Council QBD 29-Apr-2004
The claimant sought damages for increased road noise resulting from traffic control measures taken by the respondent.
Held: The defendants action to strike out the claim could not succeed. They had not shown that the claim was unarguable, . .
CitedInland Revenue and Another v Deutsche Morgan Grenfell Group Plc CA 4-Feb-2005
The company sought repayment of excess advance corporation tax payments made under a mistake of law. The question was the extent of the effect of the ruling in Klienwort Benson, in particular whether it covered sums paid as taxation, and how the law . .
CitedMuck It Ltd v Merritt and others; traffic Commissioner v Muck It Ltd and Others, Secretary of State for Transport intervening CA 15-Sep-2005
The applicant appealed revocation of its operator’s licence.
Held: The Commissioner had erred. When revoking an existing goods vehicle licence the burden was on the commissioner to establish that there was good cause to revoke the licence, and . .
CitedDeutsche Morgan Grenfell Group Plc v Inland Revenue and Another HL 25-Oct-2006
The tax payer had overpaid Advance Corporation Tax under an error of law. It sought repayment. The revenue contended that the claim was time barred.
Held: The claim was in restitution, and the limitation period began to run from the date when . .
CitedTotal Network Sl v Revenue and Customs HL 12-Mar-2008
The House was asked whether an action for unlawful means conspiracy was available against a participant in a missing trader intra-community, or carousel, fraud. The company appealed a finding of liability saying that the VAT Act and Regulations . .
CitedDobson and others v Thames Water Utilities Ltd and Another CA 29-Jan-2009
The claimants complained of odours and mosquitoes affecting their properties from the activities of the defendants in the conduct of their adjoining Sewage Treatment plant. The issue was as to the rights of non title holders to damages in nuisance . .
CitedBarratt Homes Ltd v Dwr Cymru Cyfyngedig (Welsh Water) SC 9-Dec-2009
The developers wanted to construct their private sewer to the public sewer at a point convenient to them. The water company said a connection at the point proposed would overload the sewer, and refused. The developer claimed that it had the right to . .
CitedThe Child Poverty Action Group v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions SC 8-Dec-2010
The Action Group had obtained a declaration that, where an overpayment of benefits had arisen due to a miscalculation by the officers of the Department, any process of recovering the overpayment must be by the Act, and that the Department could not . .
CitedQuila and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for The Home Department SC 12-Oct-2011
Parties challenged the rule allowing the respondent to deny the right to enter or remain here to non EU citizens marrying a person settled and present here where either party was under the age of 21. The aim of the rule was to deter forced . .
CitedPrudential Plc and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Special Commissioner of Income Tax and Another SC 23-Jan-2013
The appellants resisted disclosure to the revenue of advice it had received. It claimed legal advice privilege (LAP), though the advice was from its accountants.
Held: (Lords Sumption and Clarke dissenting) LAP applies to all communications . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Utilities, Environment, Nuisance, Human Rights

Leading Case

Updated: 10 November 2021; Ref: scu.188435