Rylands v. Fletcher case brief
Facts: Defendants owned a mill which required a supply of water. This supply of water was constructed upon land of Lord Wilton through a reservoir built on his land. Plaintiff was working for Lord Wilton on the premises in the coal mines close to the land with reservoir. Plaintiff was pushing its mine working operation closer to the reservoir and found abandoned mine shafts near the reservoir. They were working mines in that general area. Defendants were building their reservoir and also came upon this mine shaft. They filled it with water and the abandoned mine excavation gave way and burst downward, into the area that plaintiffs were working to mine coal, flooding it. Arbitrator got special permission not to assign damages but instead decided defendants should win.
Decision: Plaintiff wins
Reasoning: Case 1 – No negligence because defendant was doing something completely lawful and reasonable. The danger was not immediate but “mediate or consequential”. Defendant was not responsible or at fault so no liability.
Case 2 with Blackburn – Person brings stuff on his land and collects it at his OWN peril and no one else’s. He can excuse himself if plaintiff was at fault but usually its his risk and liability. A person who brings stuff on his land that was not originally there should be responsible for his actions. Used animal cases to justify this result; defendant, even acting reasonably, must take the risk of his actions. Otherwise it makes no sense. Judgment for plaintiff
Case 3 with Cairns – Affirmed lower court’s decision. If the water accumulated naturally then it would be on the plaintiff to protect against it and build walls to stop the flow of water. However if defendants used their land for a use that is unnatural then they are responsible for their actions for failing to protect others.
Holding: A defendant is liable for his use of the land in an unnatural way which ends up injuring the people around him due to his lack of any safeguards.