Some Remarks on the Decline of Rylands V. Fletcher and the Disparity of European Strict Liability Regimes
22 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2005
Date Written: November 21, 2004
In this case note, the recent decision of the House of Lords in the case of Transco v. Stockport is discussed from a comparative law point of view. The case illustrates the reserve that the House of Lords usually displays with regard to the rule in Rylands v. Fletcher. The House of Lords has not officially abolished the rule, but its scope of application has been narrowed down considerably ever since the decision in Rylands was rendered some 150 years ago. In Transco, the claimant was denied the right to recover damages caused by a seriously leaking water pipe because the use of water pipes is ubiquitous and of 'daily usage.' In some continental jurisdictions, however, strict liability also covers this accidental failure of water pipes. In effect, some legal systems do and some do not adhere to the policy of attaching strict liability to events like the Stockport embankment saturation. There are good arguments for both approaches, and there even are good arguments against allowing some claimants and refusing others. In any event, the most pressing point is that policy decisions in this field should preferably be made by legislatures rather than by courts.
Keywords: Rylands v Fletcher, strict liability, comparative law
JEL Classification: K13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation