Rylands v. Fletcher

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Rylands v. Fletcher

A very famous case that should be known and understood by all real estate developers.It was the precursor of the doctrine that a property owner is strictly liable for all damages caused by abnormally dangerous things and activities on his or her land,without any need to show negligence, contractual responsibility, or any neglect or omission at all. In this 1865 English case, Rylands was building a pond to supply water for his mill.During excavation,his engineers discovered five abandoned and filled mine shafts in the bed of the pond site.They seemed unimportant.Upon completion of the pond, the shafts started filling in with water. Shortly afterward the water burst through the abandoned shafts and traveled underground until it flooded Fletcher's mines.Fletcher sued,but Rylands defended by saying he had done nothing wrong,that it was a freak accident,and, anyway,it was all the engineers'fault for not investigating further.The court held Rylands liable,stating that if one brings upon his land something that will cause injury if it escapes, then he is strictly liable for the consequences if it does escape.