Court of Appeal considers law of nuisance in relation to an isolated escape of concrete
The claimant sought to recover for its loss caused by an escape of concrete from a building site into one of its public sewers. Its claim in nuisance was dismissed because the judge held that the events constituted an isolated escape of materials for which liability could arise only under the rule in Rylands v Fletcher (whereby a person who brings onto his land and keeps there anything likely to do mischief if it escapes is prima facie liable for the damage which is the natural consequence of its escape), on which the claimant
placed no reliance.
The Court of Appeal held that three principles can be derived from prior caselaw:
- Although liability in nuisance has traditionally been regarded as strict, if the defendant’s use of his land is reasonable, he will not be liable for interference with his neighbour’s enjoyment of his land;
- Unless a case can be brought within the scope of the Rylands v Fletcher rule, the defendant is not liable for damage caused by an isolated escape i.e. one that is not intended or reasonably foreseeable; and
- Foreseeability of harm of the type suffered by the claimant is necessary for the defendant to be liable in damages for nuisance.
Here, redevelopment of land in an urban setting is normal and reasonable and there was no reason to think that the defendant should have foreseen the possibility that concrete might find its way onto neighbouring land. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.