All the cases in question involved can be covered by the tort of private nuisance. Private nuisance is the interference with a person's use and enjoyment of the land. This can occur in three different ways; encroachment on land, direct physical damage on the land or interference in any way of the land. Nuisance can be either continuous or recurrent. It is important that we distinguish nuisance form the tort of trespass and negligence as they run closely together.
This essay will discuss the liability of all parties involved, using the tort of nuisance. Advice for Ingrid The question to be asked when considering Ingrid's liability in this case is can she be held liable for any damage due to the fact that she is the property owner. In the case of Sedleigh-Denfield v O'Callagan1, the defendant was a landowner on whose land a pipe was laid by a trespasser negligently in a ditch. The defendant had it checked twice a year. After a heavy rainstorm, the pipe became blocked and neighbouring land was flooded.
It was held that the occupier of the land was liable for any nuisance existing on his property, to the extent that he can say he did all that is reasonable to stop the nuisance, regardless of the fact that he received any benefit from it or crated it. It is enough to say that the defendant was aware of it and permitted it to continue. The case of Rich v Basterfield2 states that a landlord is responsible for his tenant's actions only if he has authorised it. These cases can be used as authority to argue that Ingrid is liable for any nuisance caused by Jane.
This is because she was aware that Jane is an amateur inventor and is aware of the experiments, therefore permitting the act. However it could be argued that she was unaware of the effect the substance had on living things. Depending on Ingrid's knowledge of the situation, she could be liable as the is the landlord therefore responsible for the property. Advice for Jane Had Ingrid been unaware of Jane's experiments and fixed the cracks in the wall, Jane would be liable for private nuisance created under strict liability and the rule of Ryland v Fletcher3.
In this case it was said that "if a person brings onto his land any mischief for non-natural use, he will be liable for any damage caused by escape. " The case is concerned with escape rather than interference. By conducting experiments that are harmful to humans and vegetation Jane is creating an unreasonable risk, found in the case of Mason v Levy4 where the defendant kept explosive material unsafely on the ground. The defendant is also a non-natural user of land as she is using her apartment for what is more suited to a laboratory.
This would be assumed as being extraordinary to a court, seen in the case of Rickards v Lothian5, where a non-natural user by the defendant was defined in the following terms: "It must be some special use bringing with it increased danger to others, and must not merely be the ordinary use of land or such a use as it is proper for the general benefit of the community. " Furthermore Jane is liable as there has been an escape as the fumes seeped through the cracks in the wall. Karl could as a result recover damages for personal injury.
Jane could however have a defence in the claim that she was trying to save Western Civilisation. This is a defence of public interest, and has been used in a number of cases. Lord Denning stated in Miller v Jackson6 "that the public interest should prevail over private interest". In this case the neighbours of a cricket ground had the enjoyment of their use of their land interrupted by balls from the cricket ground. Several balls throughout the summer months were entering the neighbour's premises causing much disruption.
This can be used as authority for the case in hand however; the neighbours in Miller v Jackson bought the house knowing about the cricket ground, whereas Karl knew nothing of the experiment taking place next door, and therefore was unaware of the possible nuisance unlike the neighbours in the previous case. Therefore Jane can be found liable for the nuisance due to unnatural use of land and allowing the substance to escape. Advice for Karl Karl is liable for trespass onto land, for both Jane and Lucy.
In the case of Basely v Clarkson7, it was held that trespass is when you consciously place yourself on what proves to be another's land. Under the rule of Rylands v Fletcher and strict liability, Karl is responsible for the damage caused to Lucy's plants, although it was Jane's experiment that directly caused it. This is because he moved the petrol substitute; therefore the 'escape' of fumes was his fault. Thus, he will probably be sued for liability by Lucy for the devastation done to her plants. It is also his fault that the fumes escaped into a crack in the bark.
It is however, doubtful that Max will be able to successfully sue Karl as it was two months before the tree fell into the highway and the train of causation is broken and foreseeability of the event is slim. Even though Karl's actions have affected more than one person, the nuisance will still be considered private nuisance as the number of people is still not large enough to be considered as a public nuisance. Karl may have a case against Jane, however he is liable for trespass on two accounts. Advice for Lucy Lucy is not liable for any damage caused by the nuisance.
This is because firstly as stated, Karl has been held liable for leaving the petrol on Lucy's property. This is therefore the actions of a third party, or the act of a stranger. Further more, Lucy will be able to hold Karl liable under the rule in Rylands v Fletcher because he moved the experiment to her garden and then the 'escape' took place. Lucy will therefore have a claim for the destruction of her plants, she could be found liable for not taking action to contain the fumes under the reasonable man theory. Advice for Max The question to be asked here is whether Max is liable for the damages caused to Oliver's car.
The first factor to consider is whether the fumes penetrating the gash in the tree and causing the damage was foreseeable to the defendant. In the case of Cambridge Water Company Ltd v Eastern Countries Leather Co8, it was held that the defendants would not be held liable if it could be proved that they did all in their reasonable power to prevent the nuisance from occurring. It can therefore be said that it is not reasonable for Max to expect to realise that the fumes would enter a gash on the tree therefore he could not do all in his reasonable power to prevent the nuisance.
However, this case is not straight forward because this is a premise abutting a highway. In the case of Noble v Harrison9 a branch of a tree growing on the defendants land overhung the highway. The defendant had no idea that the branch was dangerous and that it had a fracture which was due to an undiscoverable defect. On a fine weather day, the branch suddenly broke and fell upon the defendant's car which was passing along the highway. As the defect was undiscoverable by any reasonable inspection, there was nothing the defendant could do. This fact meant that the plaintiff's claim failed.
Therefore, when applying this to the case of Max it can also be said that if Max can prove that he had no reasonable way of knowing that the fumes would affect the tree like it did then he is not liable for the tree falling on Oliver's car. However if it is foreseeable that the branch will brake, Max will be liable for the damage done to the plaintiff's car while it was on a public highway. This is a public nuisance and it is highly probable that the court will allow Oliver to sue Max under this as he has been more disadvantaged than the rest of the public.