TORT 2.2C STRICT LIABILITY DISTINGUISHED
THE STRICT LIABILITY RULE IN RYLANDS V FLETCHER DISTINGUISHED FROM NUISANCE.
The rule may be confused with nuisance. Nuisance (which is discussed in chapter 4 of this work) can be defined as conduct which substantially interferes with the convenience, comfort and health of the plaintiff (or the public as the case may be).
For now, just note the following differences between both torts.
- Tangibility: The thing accumulated (under Rylands V Fletcher) must be tangible. Unlike in nuisance where an intangible thing like noise can cause interference.
- Accumulation: The element of accumulation is present in the rule in Rylands V Fletcher while there is no requirement of accumulation in nuisance.
- Escape: unlike under nuisance, the rule in Rylands V Fletcher requires there to have been escape of a non-natural user of the land.
- Liability in Rylands V Fletcher is confined to non-natural users this is not however the case in nuisance.
- A person who is not the owner of an adjoining land may not sue in Rylands V Fletcher but under public nuisance, he can sue.
RYLANDS V FLETCHER DISTINGUISHED FROM NEGLIGENCE:
- The test of foreseeability (under the rule in Rylands V Fletcher) is higher than that in Negligence. It must be that which could not have been foreseeable or comprehensible (as noted in the defences above). See Nichols V Marsland, Corporation of Greenok V Caledonian Railway Corporation.
- Unlike under negligence, strict liability usually arises between persons with interest in property.
- Also although both torts require the defendant to take care, such requirement is higher under the rule in Rylands V
OF WHAT RELEVANCE IS THE RULE IN RYLANDS V FLETCHER?
The rule in Rylands V Fletcher has been disclaimed in some jurisdiction like Australia and Scotland. Professor Newak in his article “the boundaries of nuisance” regarded the rule as a mere extension of the tort of nuisance. This position was approved in Transco Corporation V Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council which was confirmed in A.G v. Corle.
These notwithstanding, the rule in Rylands V Fletcher keeps people and authorities on their toes to ensure that their activities do not harm others. The rule still applies in Nigeria-SPDCN V Otoko.
In conclusion, Nigeria needs legislative intervention and judicial activism on the appraisal of the relevance and boundaries of the rule in Rylands V Fletcher to help us clearly decipher our standpoint as the Rule in Rylands V Fletcher has been disclaimed from being a separate tort in some other jurisdictions.