Rickards v Lothian [1913] AC 263

Rickards v Lothian [1913] AC 263 is a Tort Law case, focusing on the malicious act of the third party


C brought a case for flooding in the building against the landlord. The reason for flooding was that someone had maliciously blocked all the sinks in the toilets on the 4th floor of the D’s building and turned on all the taps, with the intention of causing a flood. C sued on the basis of Rylands v Fletcher and argued that he suffered damage as a result of the escape of the water from the D’s premises.


The issue in Rickards v Lothian [1913] AC 263 was whether a finding of non-natural use of land and Rylands v Fletcher liability could be found where an escape happened by the malicious actions of a third party, rather than of the Defendants.

Also at issue was whether the water in this context could be seen as something not naturally on the land which had been brought to it by the Defendant.


D was not liable. The water supplied to a building is a natural use of land and the rule under Rylands v Fletcher requires a special use of land. Also, it was stated that the liability under Rylands v Fletcher shall not be found where the damage was caused by a wrongful and malicious act of a third party.

Gore v Stannard (trading as Wyvern Tyres) [2012] EWCA Civ 1248

Gore v Stannard (trading as Wyvern Tyres) [2012] EWCA Civ 1248 is a Tort Law case, focusing on Rylands rule


The defendant had a business, which included the storage of wheels. The claimant neighbour’s business, which was next door, was seriously 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.

The defendant appealed.


The issue in Gore v Stannard (trading as Wyvern Tyres) [2012] EWCA Civ 1248 was whether the rule in Rylands and Fletcher could be extended to include liability for escaping a fire.


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.’

Read v Lyons [1945] KB 216

Read v Lyons [1945] KB 216 is a Tort Law case, focusing on Rylands v Fletcher rule.


The claimant was employed by the defendant in the factory. The factory was producing explosives for the Ministry of Supply.

During one of the workdays, an explosion happened which killed an employee and injured others including the claimant. There was no real evidence that negligence caused the explosion.


The issue in Read v Lyons was that there was no real evidence that negligence caused the explosion.


At trial, the judge held that the case was governed by the Rylands v Fletcher rule. Subsequently, The Court of Appeal reversed this decision as to the rule in Rylands v Fletcher required an escape of the hazardous matter.

The claimant appealed. As a result, The House of Lords dismissed the appeal. In the absence of any proof of negligence on behalf of the defendant or an escape of dangerous thing, there was no cause of action on which the claimant could succeed.

Liability requires escape that is one of the most artificial elements of the rule. Moreover, the retention of this requirement indicated the fact that the rule is not one of strict liability.

As Viscount Simon puts it in this case, “escape” means, escaping from a place where the D has an occupation of or control over land to place, which is outside his occupation or control.

Cambridge Water Co v Eastern Counties Leather plc [1994] 2 AC 264

flood, water, repair, basement

Cambridge Water Co v Eastern Counties Leather plc [1994] 2 AC 264 is a Tort Law case focusing on nuisance and the Rylands v Fletcher rule.


The defendant was the owner of a leather tanning business. It spilt small quantities of solvents to the nearby area where the claimant’s water company operated and supplied local residents with water. Consequently, the water got contaminated and the claimant brought actions based on negligence, nuisance and the rule in Rylands v Fletcher


The issue in Cambridge Water Co v Eastern Counties Leather plc [1994] 2 AC 264 was whether the rules for the remoteness of damage and foreseeability of the type of damage caused is implemented to cases where the rule of Rylands v Fletcher and nuisance are in the same way, they do for negligence cases. 


It was held that the harm of the relevant type by the defendant must be foreseeable to recover damages. This rule applies both in nuisance and under the rule in Rylands as well. Accordingly, and not withstanding that the storage of the solvent constituted a non-natural use of D’s land.

Since P could not establish that the pollution which occurred was in the circumstances foreseeable, the action failed. Therefore, the Defendants were not liable for the damage in Cambridge Water Co v Eastern Counties Leather plc.


Rylands v Fletcher 


(1868) LR 3 HL 330, [1868] UKHL 1

Read our notes and other cases on Nuisance for more information.