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   Case summaries      Nichols v Marsland

Nichols v Marsland (1876) 2 ExD 1

The defendant diverted a natural stream on his land to create ornamental lakes. Exceptionally heavy rain caused the artificial lakes and waterways to be flooded and damage adjoining land. The defendant was held not liable under Rylands v Fletcher as the cause of the flood was an act of God.

Mellish LJ:

“Now the jury have distinctly found, not only that there was no negligence in the construction or the maintenance of the reservoirs, but that the flood was so great that it could not reasonably have been anticipated, although, if it had been anticipated, the effect might have been prevented; and this seems to us in substance a finding that the escape of the water was owing to the act of God. However great the flood had been, if it had not been greater than floods that had happened before and might be expected to occur again, the defendant might not have made out that she was free from fault; but we think she ought not to be held liable because she did not prevent the effect of an extraordinary act of nature, which she could not anticipate.”
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