Mason v Levy Autoparts of England Ltd: 1967

McKenna J said that there were not three separate routes to liability at law for the escape of fire from premises to a neighbour’s property, but one. A householder was liable for the escape of his fire (ignis suus): no additional danger was needed to be proved. The liability was based on a custom of the realm and on no other principle. If the case was brought otherwise than on the custom of the realm (i.e. by action on the case) then negligence had to be proved. McKenna J said: ‘There were not three heads of liability at common law but only one. A person from whose land a fire escaped was held liable to his neighbour unless he could prove that it had started or spread by the act of a stranger or of God. Filliter’s case had given a special meaning to the words ‘accidental fire’ used in the statute, holding that they did not include fires due to negligence, but covered only cases of ‘a fire produced by mere chance, or incapable of being traced to any cause.’ But it does not follow, because that meaning may be given to ‘accidental,’ that the statute does not cover cases of the Rylands v Fletcher kind where the occupier is held liable for the escape though no fault is proved against him. In such cases the fire may be ‘produced by mere chance’ or may be ‘incapable of being traced to any cause.’ Bankes LJ was making a distinction unknown to the common law, between ‘the mere escape of fire’ (which was his first head) and its escape under Rylands v Fletcher conditions (which was his third), and was imputing an intention to the legislature of exempting from liability in the former case and not in the latter.’


McKenna J


[1967] 2 QB 530


England and Wales


CitedRylands 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 by:

OverruledStannard (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 . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Nuisance, Torts – Other

Updated: 06 May 2022; Ref: scu.512176