Law of Torts - Defences

D can escape liability.

Consent of the Plaintiff

P expressly or impliedly consented to the accumulation of the thing escape and there is no negligence on the part of D. D is not liable.

Please refer to the case of Rainham Chemical Works v Belvedere Fish Guano Co.

Statutory Authority

Public bodies storing water, gas, electricity etc sometimes exempted from liability by statute if reasonable care has been taken. It all depends on statutory interpretation.

Green v Chelsea Waterworks Co - - D’s company authorized by Parliament to lay a main. It burst without D’s negligence and caused flood to P’s house. D was not liable

Charing Cross Electricity Co. v Hydraulic Power Co. - - On similar fact the court held D was liable because not exempted by statute.

Default of the Plaintiff

If the damage is caused solely by the act or default of the Plaintiff – no remedy under Reylands rule.

Ponting v Noaked - - P’s horse nibbled some poisonous tree near the defendants boundary and died. D is not liable.

Common Benefit

Where the source of the danger is maintained for the common benefit of P & D, then D is not liable if escape.

Carstairs v Taylor - - A hired from B the ground floor. B stays upstairs. A box contained water from roof was groaned by rat which caused the water leak and destroy A’s good. B is not liable.

Act of third Party

Where the defendant accumulates the thing into his land but the escape is caused through the unforeseen act of a third party. D is not liable.

Box v Jubb - - D’s reservoir over flowed partly because a third party who was conducting operations higher up the stream discharged downstream an unusual large volume of water into D’s reservoir. D was not liable.

Hale v Jennings Bros - - Proprietor of a chair O’plane was liable for the escape of a chair caused by a passenger tempering with it which cause P to suffer injury. D should have reasonably foresee such act and must prevent it because he had control over.

Act of God

An escape due to natural causes and without human intervention and unforeseeable then there is defence of act of God.

Nichols v Marsland - - D formed an artificial lakes by damming up natural system. An extra ordinary and violent thunderstorm broke down the artificial barriers and water escape destroying P’s bridge. It was held that D is not liable due to act of God.

Greenock Corp v Caledonian Railway - - D constructed a pond by diverting natural stream. Heavy rainfall destroyed it and the water poured to street cause damage to P’s property. Heavy rainfall is not act of God. D must have secured.

Modern Position of Rule Reylands v Fletcher

Reylands Rule

1. There must be accumulation and the substance must likely to cause danger if escape.

2. Condition of non natural user with exceptional risk.

3. Reasonable foresee ability required.

4. Non occupier also can get remedies.


1. No need accumulation and escape.

2. No need Condition of non natural user with exceptional risk.

3. Reasonable foresee ability required.

4. Non occupier has no remedy

* Now the rule seldom from successful claim in court. Since it has developed the scope which is most likely like negligence.
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