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 under the rule in Rylands, concluding that the appellant had collected the tyres on his land, and that the fire had escaped.
Held: The court considered whether the rule in Rylands and Fletcher could be extended to include liability for escaping fire.
Held: The appeal succeeded. Ward LJ said: ‘ although the scope of Rylands v Fletcher has been narrowed each time the highest courts have considered it, the Recorder in fact extended it beyond any previous expression of the principle. He imposed strict liability where it had not existed before.’
. . and ‘the law is as stated in Goldman v Hargrave at least as regards fires that have not been deliberately kindled. An occupier of land will not be liable to his neighbour for a fire that begins accidentally unless he is negligent in failing to prevent its spread. The general test of negligence may entail the taking of special precautions where the use in question involves the accumulation or storage of inflammable or readily combustible materials. But that is a question of fact to be decided on a case by case basis.’
. . and ‘ in the light of Transco plc v Stockport MBC the extension of the principle in Mason v Levy Autoparts of England Ltd was, in my judgment, a wrong turning in the law. No extension of the principle in Rylands v Fletcher can be justified. I would therefore overrule Mason v Levy Autoparts of England Ltd’

Ward, Etherton, Lewison LJJ
[2012] EWCA Civ 1248, [2013] Env LR 10, [2012] WLR(D) 266, [2012] 42 EG 133, [2013] 1 All ER 694
Fires Prevention (Metropolis) Act 1774
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 . .
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 . .
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 . .
CitedRainham Chemical Works Ltd (in liquidation) and others v Belvedere Fish Guano Co Ltd HL 1921
At a time of war, a process was invented where picric acid was manufactured from dinitrophenol (DNP) and nitrate of soda. DNP had been used mainly for the manufacture of dyes, and was a stable compound which did not explode easily. It was not in . .
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 . .
CitedBeaulieu v Finglam 1401
Markham J considered the possibility of liability for the escape of fire to damage a neighbour’s property and said: ‘A man is held to answer for the act of his servant or of his guest in such a case; for if my servant or my guest puts a candle by a . .
CitedTurberville v Stamp 1792
The defendant’s haystack spontaneously combusted and it was alleged that he had ‘wrongfully negligently and improperly kept his haystack so that it became liable to ignite’ and so be a danger to the claimant’s property. The jury were left to . .
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 . .
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 . .
Cited1582 (Anon) 1582
The defendant fired a gun at a fowl. In so doing he set fire to his own and his neighbour’s house. The action was brought by way of action on the case.
Held: If the plaintiff ‘had counted on the custom of the realm as in [Beaulieu v Finglam] . .
CitedCrogate v Morris 1675
‘if my friend come and lie in my house, and set my neighbour’s house on fire, the action lieth against me.’ . .
CitedBlack v The Christchurch Finance Company Limited PC 16-Dec-1893
(New Zealand) Lord Shand, said: ‘The lighting of a fire on open bush land, where it may readily spread to adjoining property and cause serious damage, is an operation necessarily attended with great danger, and a proprietor who executes such an . .
CitedH and N Emanuel Ltd v Greater London Council CA 1971
Notwithstanding a clause in the contract that no rubbish was to be burnt on the site, it was known to the Council that the contractor it had engaged to demolish and remove prefabricated bungalows made a practice of burning off small pieces of wood . .
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 . .
CitedRichards v Easto 21-Feb-1846
Section 86 of the 1774 Act applies to the whole country. . .
CitedFilliter v Phippard 9-Dec-1847
Lord Denman CJ considered a 1707 Act restricting liability for fire damage: ‘The Act contemplates the probability of fires in cities and towns arising from three causes, the want of water, the imperfection of party walls, and the negligence of . .
CitedViscount Canterbury v The Attorney-General 11-Feb-1843
Whether the protection given by the statutes 6 Ann. c. 31, and 14 G 3, c, 78, toa party in whose house or on whose estate ‘a fire shall accidentally begin’ extends to fires occasioned by the negligence of the owner or his servants, or, whether it is . .
CitedVaughan v Menlove 1837
The defendant had been advised of the probable consequences of allowing a stack of damp hay, which he had erected without proper ventilation, to remain in this condition. Subsequently the hay spontaneously ignited damaging the plaintiff’s house. At . .
CitedAldridge v The Great Western Railway Company 19-Nov-1841
Case against a railway company for so carelessly and improperly managing and directing an engine on their railway by their servants, that sparks flew from the engine upon a stack of beans standing in an adjoining field, belonging to the plaintiff, . .
CitedPiggot v The Eastern Counties Railway Company 2-Jun-1846
Sparks from the engine of a passing mail train set fire to the plaintiff’s cart lodge. The claim against the railway company was that they ‘so carelessly, negligently, and unskilfully managed and conducted their said steam-carriage and steam-engine’ . .
CitedVaughan v The Taff Vale Railway Company 20-Nov-1858
A wood adjoining the defendants’ railway was burnt by sparks from the locomotives. On several previous occasions it had been set on fire, and the Company had paid for the damage. Evidence was given that the defendants had done everything that was . .
CitedSmith v The London and South Western Railway Company 1869
Negligence requires duty to injured
Workmen, employed by the defendant railway company to cut the grass and trim hedges bordering the railway, placed the trimmings in heaps near the line, and allowed them to remain there for fourteen days, during very hot weather in the month of . .
CitedSmith v The London and South Western Railway Company 1870
Blackburn J said: ‘I take it that, since the case of Vaughan v Taff Vale Ry Co, which was expressly affirmed in Brand v Hammersmith Ry Co, it is clear that when a railway company is authorized by their Act of parliament to run engines on their line, . .
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 . .
Wrong in partMusgrove 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 . .
CitedMusgrove v Pandelis 1919
Mr Musgrove rented rooms above a domestic garage, in which Mr Pandelis kept a car. Mr Pandelis sent his chauffeur, Mr Coumis, to clean the car. Mr Coumis had to move the car within the garage. For that purpose he went to the bonnet and turned on the . .
CitedJones v Festiniog Railway CEC 1867
The defendant railway company ran steam locomotives on its railway. Although it had taken all reasonable precautions against the emission of sparks from the engine, nevertheless sparks from the engine set the plaintiff’s haystack alight and burned . .
CitedPowell v Fall 1879
The defendant drove a steam powered traction engine on the highway. Sparks from the engine set fire to the plaintiff’s haystack. The court was asked: ‘whether the owner of a locomotive engine propelled by steam along a public highway using a fire . .
CitedPowell v Fall CA 1880
The defendant had caused a fire when sparks flew from his steam traction engine as he drove along the highway. He now appealed against a judgemnt that he was liable. He conceded that an action lay at common law.
Held: The decision was upheld. . .
CitedJob Edwards Ltd v Birmingham Navigations Proprietors 1923
Rubbish was tipped on land belonging to a canal company and on adjoining land belonging to mine owners. The rubbish on the mine owners’ land was found to be on fire, and the canal company feared that the fire might spread to their own land. Having . .
CitedJob Edwards Ltd v Birmingham Navigations Proprietors CA 1924
Land next to the canal was used for the deposit of refuse by trespassers. The mound spread until, for a fee, it was dumped also across the canal. It caught fire, and the fire spread toward the canal. By agreement the parties got together to put out . .
OverruledMason 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 . .
CriticisedJohnson v BJW Property Developments Ltd 2002
. .
CitedCriminal proceedings against Lindqvist ECJ 6-Nov-2003
Mrs Lindqvist had set up an internet site for her local parish containing information about some of her colleagues in the parish. She gave names, jobs, hobbies and in one case some of the person’s employment and medical details. The Court decided . .
CitedSedleigh-Denfield v O’Callaghan HL 24-Jun-1940
Occupier Responsible for Nuisance in adopting it
A trespasser laid a drain along a ditch on the defendant’s land. Later the defendants came to use the drain themselves. A grate was misplaced by them so that in a heavy rainstorm, it became clogged with leaves, and water flowed over into the . .
ApprovedE 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 . .
CitedJob Edwards Ltd v Birmingham Navigations Proprietors CA 1924
Land next to the canal was used for the deposit of refuse by trespassers. The mound spread until, for a fee, it was dumped also across the canal. It caught fire, and the fire spread toward the canal. By agreement the parties got together to put out . .
CitedWilliams v Owen QBD 1955
Mr Williams left his car overnight in the hotel garage. A fire broke out and destroyed his car.
Held: The strict liability of an innkeeper was limited to loss of his guest’s goods rather than to their destruction.
As to section 86 of the . .
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 . .
CitedLMS 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 . .
CitedBybrook Barn Garden Centre Ltd and Others v Kent County Council CA 8-Jan-2001
A culvert had been constructed taking a stream underneath the road. At the time when it came into the ownership of the local authority, it was adequate for this purpose. Later developments increased the flow, and the culvert came to become an . .
DeterminativeGoldman 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 . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Nuisance, Torts – Other, Negligence

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.464655