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Strict Liability

Strict Liability

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Published by Ng Yih Miin

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Published by: Ng Yih Miin on Mar 27, 2012
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10/13/2014

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 A.STRICT LIABILITY Rylands v Fletcher
 The mental state of a defendant in a strict liability action is irrelevant. It is nota requirement that the defendant must intend to do an act which is alleged togive rise to the tort of strict liability.
Rylands v Fletcher:
the defendant mill owner employed some independentcontractors to build a reservoir. Beneath this reservoir were some iron shaftsthat went through a mining area and which were connected to the plaintiff’smine. The defendant did not know of the existence of these shafts and thecontractors were negligence in not blocking the shafts. The plaintiff’s minewas flooded when the reservoir was filled with water. The House of Lords heldthem liable to the plaintiff.Blackburn J in the Court of Exchequer Chamber said:
The person who for his own purposes brings on his lands and collectsand keeps there anything likely to do mischief if it escapes, must keep it in at his peril, and if he does not do so, is prima facie answerable for allthe damage which is the natural consequence of its escape.
 This statement is known as the rule in Rylands v Fletcher. The learned judgewent on to say that the defendant may avoid liability if he can prove that theescape was due to the plaintiff’s own fault or that it was caused by an act of God.
 B.Elements to establish liability 
 There are 5 elements required to establish liability under the rule inRylands v Fletcher;
1.
Dangerous thing that would likely to cause damage if itescapes
 The rule applies to anything that may cause damage if it escapes. Once thiselement is fulfilled, then that ‘thing’ is a ‘dangerous thing’. The ‘thing’ neednot to be dangerous per se (by nature) if properly kept, but are dangerousif they escape. In
Ang Hock Tai v Tan Sum Lee & Anor
the plaintiff 
 
rented a shop house and lived on the first floor of the building. The groundfloor was sublet to the defendant, who was in the business of repairing anddistributing tyres. The defendant stored petrol for the purposes of hisbusiness. One morning the defendant’s premises caught fire. The firespread to the first floor and the plaintiff’s wife and child died in the tragedy. The court held that the defendant liable under the rule in Rylands vFletcher as the petrol was a dangerous thing.
2.Intentional storage/Accumulation
 The defendant will be liable if he has accumulated the thing. If he did notaccumulated the thing he may still found liable if he has authorized theaccumulation. In any case liability rests in those who have control over thething.In
Pontardawe RDC v Moore-Gwyn
due to changes in the weather somerocks from the defendant’s land fell onto the plaintiff’s land. The defendantwas not liable as he did not accumulate the rocks. Moreover the escapewas not caused by the defendant’s act.however...In
Miles v Forest Rock Granite Co Ltd
the defendant used someexplosives to blast some rocks on his land. Some of the rocks fell onto theland below and injured the plaintiff. The court found that although the rockswere not purposely collected or kept on the land, the explosives werepurposely collected and kept. The defendant were held liable for thisdeliberate accumulation which caused the escape of the rocks, andbecause the way in which the injury was sustained through rock-blasting,which was not a natural use of land.
3.Escape
 The plaintiff must prove that there has been an escape from a place wherethe defendant has control and authority.In
Read v J Lyons & Co Ltd
an inspector of munitions was injured when ashell that was being manufactured at the defendants factory where shewas employed, exploded and caused her substantial injuries. Thedefendants were not liable as there was no escape.
 
In
Ponting v Noakes
the plaintiff’s horse ate the poisonous leaves of ayew tree on the defendant’s land. The court held that there was no escapeas the tree did not extend beyond the defendant’s boundary and so theplaintiff failed in his action.however...In
Midwood & Co Ltd v Mayor
the defendants were held liable when anexplosion on their property caused inflammable gas to escape into theplaintiff’s house and consequently set fire to the plaintiff’s property.
4.Non-natural use of land
 The meaning of non-natural use of land was explained in the case of 
Rickards v Lothian
where Lord Moulton sated:
It must be some special use bringing with it increased danger toothers 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 non-natural use of land has been equated with unreasonable risk in thetort of negligence. Therefore the courts will balance the probability of damage occurring plus the seriousness of the probable damage comparedto the social benefit derived from it. The following are examples of non-natural use of land:In
 
Crowhurst v Amersham Burial Board
the defendant planted a yewtree on his land. The branches and leaves of the trees
extended
into theplaintiff’s land. The plaintiff’s horse died upon eating the leaves. The courtheld that the defendant liable as planting a poisonous tree is not a naturaluse of land. This decision may be justified an
escape
of the tree hadoccurred as the branches and leaves had encroached onto the plaintiff’sland.In
 
Abdul Rahman bin Che Ngah v Puteh bin Samat
the defendantengaged to clear an irrigation canal which went through the plaintiff’s

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