Rylands And Fletcher Case Study

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The issue is whether Lorraine and Steve will be liable for damages under Rylands and Fletcher when a large fish tank, holding 800 litres of water, is accidentally knocked by a third party, causing the water to escape into Dave’s apartment below, causing damage to the property and furnishings.


The principles of Rylands and Fletcher are; bringing something onto land that is likely to cause mischief, the use of land in a manner which is non-natural, and when a thing escapes and causes harm. A plaintiff must prove all principles to find someone liable. The defendant is able to use defences by Blackburn J and Lord Moulton.

Brings Something Onto the Land, Likely to Cause Mischief if it Escapes:

Blackburn J, in Rylands
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This was not a normal fish tank and goes beyond the limitations of natural use of the land. Lorraine and Steve brought something onto their land which was not naturally there. The fish tank had to be installed, which Dave will argue means the fish tank is a special use of land. Dave will argue that a 800 litre fish tank in an apartment block is more special and non natural than the water in Rylands v Fletcher, due to the location of the water in a large, residential apartment block.

Lorraine and Steve have brought a large, 800 litre fish tank into their 4th story apartment, this is evident of increased danger. Lorraine and Steve have little argument for increased danger.

Lorraine and Steve’s fish tank was a personal and private use of land. They were not benefiting the community when installing the fish tank.

Lorraine and Steve have an argument, especially in that a fish tank constitutes a natural use of the land. But, Dave’s argument of the fish tank being a special, non-natural use because of the quantity of water is stronger.

Escapes and Causes Harm:

Blackburn J, in Rylands v Fletcher said that any person that brings onto their land something that has the potential to do ‘mischief’ if it escapes, is liable for the damage it has

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