Rylands V. Fletcher

 Rylands V Fletcher, played an important role in tort law and it is a landmark judgement. The defendant in this case had a plan to construct a reservoir on his land for the purpose of providing water to his mill. For the construction of the reservoir he employed independent contractors. While digging there were disused shafts under the site of the reservoir which the independent contractors failed to found and they did not seal them properly the result was that Rylands reservoirs burst and flooded a nearby mine, run by fletcher, shortly after it was filled for the first time on 11 december 1860, causing 937 pounds worth of damage. The issue was that in the case could the defendant be held responsible for damages incurred by the plaintiff if his use of his land was unreasonable? It was held that the defendant did not know of the shafts and had not been negligent although the independent contractors had been. Even though the defendant has not been negligent, it was held liable. 


According to the Court of Liverpool, the flooding did not constitute a trespass since the flood was not direct and immediate, nor did it constitute a nuisance since the flood was not a continuous event, but a random one. On December 14, 1864, a Court order appointed an independent arbitrator to hear the case. The arbitrator too ruled in favour of the defendant, finding that the defendant had no knowledge of the mine shafts, meaning that he could not be held responsible. Instead, the arbitrators held the contractors liable for their negligent conduct.

Fletcher appealed the Exchequer Chamber decision, consisting of six judges, after being aggrieved by the decision of the Court of Exchequer of Pleas. Several judges overturned the decision of the Court of Exchequer of Pleas. It was in this case the Court formulated the concept of Strict Liability for the first time.

Judge Blackburn propounded the following rule as the basis for liability in Rylands v. Fletcher:

We think that the rule of law is, that the person who for his own purpose brings on his lands and keeps there anything likely to do mischief if it escapes, must keep it in at his peril, and if he does not do so, is prima facie answerable for all the damage which is the natural consequence of its escape. He can excuse himself by showing that the escape was owing to the plaintiff’s default; or perhaps that the escape was the consequence of vis major, or the act of God; but as nothing of this sort exists here, it is unnecessary to inquire what excuse would be sufficient. 

The House of Lords added another important qualification to the rule outlined by Blackburn, J, in the Exchequer Chamber, when considering the case. It was held that under the rule, the use of land should be considered ‘non-natural’, as was the case in Rylands v. Fletcher.

Accordingly, for the rule to be effective, the following three elements must be present :

  1. It must have been something dangerous on his property purchased by someone : The term “dangerous” implies that if it left his territory, some sort of misery could occur. The water in the Fletcher pool was toxic in the above example.
  2. Bringing or keeping something on personal property must escape from that person’s land. : A second vital part of strict liability is the concept of escape. This means that anything that can cause harm to another person should be escaped from the person’s property and not within reach.
  3. There must be no natural use of the land : in the case Rylands v. Fletcher, the defendant, constructed the reservoir for the benefits of the mill (non- natural use) . If he stored the water for natural use then he cannot be liable otherwise he is liable.

 Rylands V Fletcher, played an important role in tort law and it is a landmark judgement. The rule of strict liability established in this case has helped solve many disputes where damage was caused without any negligence on the part of the defendant. Due to the rapid pace at which industrialization and technological advancements are occurring, it is imperative that the owner of any dangerous equipment or thing must be held responsible for all damages that it may cause. The rule of strict liability is applicable as much in India as in England.



The Rule of Strict Liability and Absolute Liability in Indian Perspective



LAW OF TORTS, R.K Bangia, pp 321,322

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.


Do follow me on FacebookTwitter  Youtube and Instagram.

The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

If you would also like to contribute to my website, then do share your articles or poems at secondinnings.hr@gmail.com

In the year 2021, we wrote about 1000 Inspirational Women In India, in the year 2022, we would be featuring 5000 Start Up Stories.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: