Stannard (t/a Wyvern Tyres) v Gore [2012] EWCA Civ 1248

Stannard ran a business supplying tyres and stored some 3,000 tyres on its premises. An electrical fire broke out, causing the tyres to ignite and spread to Gore’s adjoining premises. Gore brought a claim for damages in negligence and under the rule in Rylands v Fletcher 6 , which applies strict liability in cases where someone brings something onto their land which escapes and causes harm to another.

At first instance, the court rejected the claim for negligence on the basis that the fire was accidental. However, it allowed the claim under the rule in Rylands v Fletcher because the haphazard way in which the tyres were stored was a dangerous and non-natural use of the land.

Stannard appealed the decision and the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal. The rule in Rylands v Fletcher applied where the owner or occupier of land kept an exceptionally dangerous or mischievous thing on his land that he recognised (or ought to have recognised) would be a danger if it should escape. His use of the land must also be extraordinary and unusual.

There were no special rules which applied in the case of fire. However, it would usually be very difficult to bring a claim for fire damage on the basis of Rylands v Fletcher as it was the “thing” which was kept on the land (in this case the tyres) which needed to escape, not the fire itself. The tyres themselves were not dangerous and in any event, they had not escaped.