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Leakey & Ors  v National Trust [1980] QB 485  Court of Appeal

The claimants’ land had been damaged by falls of soil and other debris from the defendant’s land known as Burrow Mump. The falls were caused entirely by nature there was no human activity involved that would have caused the fall. The defendants were aware of the risks since 1968. They had taken legal advice and were told that they would not be liable for naturally occurring slides and consequently did nothing to prevent such slides. Following the exceptionally hot dry summer of 1976 and unusually heavy rainfall in the autumn, Mrs Leaky noticed a big crack appear in the bank above her house. She informed the National Trust and offered to pay half the cost of making it safe. Her offer was rejected. A few weeks later there was a large fall. She joined forces with other neighbours to bring an action in nuisance.

Held:

The National Trust were liable following the Privy Council decision in Goldman v Hargrave. A defendant is liable for a naturally occurring hazard on the land if they are aware of the danger and failed to act with reasonable prudence to remove the hazard.

Megaw LJ:

“The defendant's duty is to do that which it is reasonable for him to do. The criteria of reasonableness include, in respect of a duty of this nature, the factor of what the particular man - not the average man - can be expected to do, having regard, amongst other things, where a serious expenditure of money is required to eliminate or reduce the danger, to his means. Just as, where physical effort is required to avert an immediate danger, the defendant's age and physical condition may be relevant in deciding what is reasonable, so also logic and good sense require that, where the expenditure of money is required, the defendant's capacity to find the money is relevant. But this can only be in the way of a broad, and not a detailed, assessment; and, in arriving at a judgment on reasonableness, a similar broad assessment may be relevant in some cases as to the neighbour's capacity to protect himself from damage, whether by way of some form of barrier on his own land or by way of providing funds for expenditure on agreed works on the land of the defendant.”
 
 
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