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Rylands v. Fletcher

Citation. L.R. 3 H.L. 330 (1868)
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Citation. L.R. 3 H.L. 330 (1868)

Brief Fact Summary.

Defendant built a reservoir on top of plaintiff’s old mine. After the reservoir was completed, the mine shaft collapsed and flooded plaintiff’s mine.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

If a person brings a dangerous thing onto the land, and then the dangerous thing escapes, then the person is liable for resulting damages automatically.


Plaintiff owned and operated a number of underground coal mines. Defendant built a reservoir on top of one of plaintiff’s old mines. However, defendant did not know about this when the reservoir was under construction. After the reservoir was completed, the water broke through the filled-in shaft of the mine and flooded and flooded into plaintiff’s mine.


Was defendant’s use of the land a natural use?


No. Defendant’s use of the land was not a natural one and engaged in without proper caution The lower court judgment was affirmed,


The Court examined if defendant was reasonable in building a reservoir on the land. Building a reservoir itself is not a nonnatural activity, but the same activity might be natural in one location but not in another. A water reservoir is an inappropriate use of land in a coal mining area. By introducing water above and under the land, defendant created an extraordinary risk. Therefore, the Court concluded that the defendant should do the activity at its own peril and be strictly liable for the damages done by the escaping water.

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