Case: Parties


Rylands v Fletcher (1868) [England] p. 676-682 Plaintiff - Rylands (mine owner) Defendant - Fletcher (mill owner)

Procedural History: Facts: Defendant built a pond or reservoir to supply water for their mill. Defendant built the pond directly over vertical shafts once used for mining, though it looked like solid earth. When they filled the pond with water, the shafts gave way and the water flooded down, and ended up flooding plaintiff's mine as well. Issue: Whether there is liability when the defendant non-negligently, lawfully, and unintentionally causes plaintiff losses when an entity on defendant's land escapes. - Yes Holding: Verdict for plaintiff. There is strict liability for entities you hold on your property. Reasoning: There is no negligence or intent here, so liability is based on strict liability. In the Exchequer Chamber, Judge Blackburn poses the argument that if you bring a something onto your land that is harmless, but dangerous if it escapes, then you are strictly liable if it escapes. You bring the entity onto the land at your own peril if it escapes. In the House of Lords, the court affirms, but with different reasoning. The court talks about the difference between non-natural uses vs. natural accumulations. In non-natural uses, a defendant is strictly liable to a neighbor if the substance escapes. For natural accumulations, there is no liability for escape. The House of Lords's rationale has a good policy justification: internalizing external costs.