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   Case summaries      Cambridge Water v Eastern Counties Leather

Cambridge Water v Eastern Counties Leather plc [1994] 2 AC 264 House of Lords

The defendant owned a leather tanning business. Spillages of small quantities of solvents occurred over a long period of time which seeped through the floor of the building into the soil below. These solvents made their way to the borehole owned by the Claimant water company. The borehole was used for supplying water to local residents. The water was contaminated at a level beyond that which was considered safe and Cambridge Water had to cease using the borehole. Cambridge Water brought actions based on negligence, nuisance and the rule in Rylands v Fletcher.


Eastern Counties Leather were not liable as the damage was too remote. It was not reasonably foreseeable that the spillages would result in the closing of the borehole. The foreseeability of the type of damage is a pre-requisite of liability in actions of nuisance and claims based on the rule in Rylands v Fletcher in the same way as it applies to claims based in negligence. The Wagon Mound No 1 case applies to determine remoteness of damage.
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