<i>Bursting Reservoirs and Victorian Tort Law:</i> Rylands and Horrocks <i>v</i>. Fletcher (<i>1868</i>)

A. W. Brian Simpson

in Leading Cases in the Common Law

Published in print September 1996 | ISBN: 9780198262992
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191682438 | DOI:
Bursting Reservoirs and Victorian Tort Law: Rylands and Horrocks v. Fletcher (1868)

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This chapter discusses the case of Rylands and Horrocks v. Fletcher. The case arose out of a run-of-the-mill mining accident which involved no loss of life. Yet its outcome was much affected by one. The starting-point for the enquiry is a curious feature of the tort law built up by the Victorian judges: the espousal of two apparently antithetical principles of liability. One makes liability depend upon proof of negligence or fault and, in the absence of such proof, leaves the injured party without a remedy. Negligence or fault is defined as failure to conform to an objective standard of prudent behaviour. The other principle — that of strict liability — differs in permitting the injured party to recover compensation for loss arising from the defendant's conduct or activities even though negligence cannot be proved. What is rather surprising is the adoption, albeit in different contexts, of both principles in one body of tort law, and this seems to call for an explanation.

Keywords: common law; mining accident; tort law; negligence; strict liability

Chapter.  16719 words. 

Subjects: History of Law

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