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Rylands v. Fletcher

House of Lords
L.R. 3 H.L. 330 (1868)



Fletcher (plaintiff) operated several underground coal mines on land adjacent to land on which Rylands (defendant) had built a reservoir for the purpose of supplying water to his mill. Rylands employed engineers and contractors to build the reservoir. In the course of building the reservoir, these employees learned that it was being built on top of abandoned underground coal mines. This fact was unknown by Rylands. After the reservoir was completed, it broke and flooded Fletcher’s coal mines. This caused damage to Fletcher’s property, and Fletcher brought suit against Rylands. The Court of Exchequer held that Rylands was not liable, and the decision was appealed to the Court of Exchequer Chamber. There, Rylands was held strictly liable for damage caused to Fletcher’s property by water from the broken reservoir. Rylands appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Cairns, L.C.)

Concurrence (Cranworth, L.)

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