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;
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
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