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Box v Jubb LR 4 EX Div 76

The defendant had a reservoir on their land. There was another reservoir situated at a higher level than the defendant’s. The owner of this other reservoir emptied it through a drain connected to the defendant’s reservoir causing the defendant’s reservoir to overflow and damage the claimant’s land. The claimant brought an action under Rylands v Fletcher contending that there was a non natural user of the land and that there had been an escape of water that caused damage.


The defendant was not liable for the damage as it was caused by the act of a third party over which the defendant had no control.

Chief Baron Kelly:

“The question is, what was the cause of this overflow? Was it anything for which the Defendants are responsible? Did it proceed from their act or default, or from that of a stranger over which they had no control? The case is abundantly clear on this, proving beyond a doubt that the Defendants had no control over the causes of the overflow and no knowledge of the existence of the obstruction. The matters complained of took place through no default or breach of duty of the Defendants, but were caused by a stranger over whom and at a spot where they had no control. It seems to me to be immaterial whether this is called vis major or the unlawful act of a stranger; it is sufficient to say that the Defendants had no means of preventing the occurrence. I think the defendants could not possibly have been expected to anticipate that which happened here and the law does not require them to construct their reservoir and the sluices and gates leading to it to meet any amount of pressure which the wrongful act of a third person may impose”
Back to lecture outline on liability under Rylands v Fletcher in tort law