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 supply to the premises was a wholly ordinary use of the land. Speaking of the principle in Rylands that the thing brought on to the defendant’s land should be something ‘not naturally there’.
Lord Moulton said: ‘But there is another ground upon which their Lordships are of opinion that the present case does not come within the principle laid down in Fletcher v. Rylands. It is not every use to which land is put that brings into play that principle. It must be some special use bringing with it increased danger to others, and must not merely be the ordinary use of the land or such a use as is proper for the general benefit of the community.’ The act of a vandal blocking the sink and turning on the tap counted as an act of God. The provision of a proper supply of water to the various parts of a house is not only reasonable, but has become, in accordance with prevailing sanitary views, an almost central feature of town life and it would be wholly unreasonable to hold an occupier responsible for the consequences of acts which he is powerless to prevent.
 AC 263,  UKPC 1
Cited – 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 . .
Followed – Nichols v Marsland CA 1-Dec-1876
Flood following heavy rain was not negligent
The defendant was the owner of a series of artificial ornamental lakes, which had existed for a great number of years, and had never previous to 18th June, 1872 caused any damage. On that day, however, after a most unusual fall of rain, the lakes . .
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 . .
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 – 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 . .
Cited – Anthony and others v The Coal Authority QBD 28-Jul-2005
The claimants lived adjacent to an old coal tip, which caught fire spontaneously and burned for three years. They claimed in nuisance. The defendant argued that the risk of spontaneous ombustion was not reasonable, and that the use was safe.
Cited – Stannard (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, Landlord and Tenant
Updated: 05 January 2022; Ref: scu.188025