“ Common jurisprudence actions have in recent old ages proved to be a fertile land for environmental judicial proceeding, although the bench have demonstrated a instead tepid response to efforts to utilize civil wrongs as a mechanism to command the inauspicious impacts of pollution on people, belongings and the wider environment. The tribunals have shown a penchant for specific pollution statute law, such as the Environmental Protection Act 1990, and have shown minimum support for efforts to develop the common jurisprudence as a agency for deciding contemporary environmental jobs ” ( Wolf and Stanley, 2010 ) .


Common jurisprudence is a Judge-declared jurisprudence, a jurisprudence which exists and applies to a group on the footing of imposts and legal case in points developed over 100s of old ages in Britain. Common jurisprudence is split into two sectors: instance jurisprudence and statute law. Legislation is an act passed by a Parliament or legislative assembly, whereas instance jurisprudence is the jurisprudence that accumulates as a consequence of tribunal determinations. There has been much treatment when sing the issue of common jurisprudence.


The easiest manner to infer whether the tribunals have shown a deficiency of support for the development of common jurisprudence statute law to counter present twenty-four hours people, belongings and environmental jobs is to analyze good known environmental instances, and do opinions to whether more could hold been accomplished by the tribunals. First the difference between must be defined.

Rylands v Fletcher [ 1868 ]

Rylands v Fletcher is one of the most polar instances in Tort jurisprudence, due to the deductions it had on future Tort jurisprudence instances. Rylands possessed a piece of belongings over mines and venas of coal. However, he did n’t have the rights to these. Nearby coal mines were owned by Fletcher. Rylands built a reservoir, unaware of the abandoned mine left underneath, which led to the flood of H2O into Fletcher ‘s nearby cave. Fletcher sued Rylands under the civil wrong of trespass, which was deemed unsuitable, as at the clip of the instance, one-off events were n’t classed as trespass, and hence taking to the instance being brought under the civil wrong of nuisance. The arbiter ruled that Rylands was non guilty of carelessness as they had no manner of cognizing about the shafts under the reservoir. The instance was appealed, and ruled in favor of Fletcher, due to Rylands doing mischievousness by non maintaining control of the reservoir. Although he acted without carelessness, he was still apt due to the mischievousness he caused. Due to the reversal in charge, this instance became highly of import in respect to Tort jurisprudence, with some sing Rylands V Fletcher as the 4th Tort.

Cambridge Water Co Ltd V Eastern Counties Leather plcA [ 1994 ]

The most outstanding instance to see when holding the statement is most likely the Cambridge Water Co Ltd V Eastern Counties Leather plc, which is an of import English Tort Law instance. It is a instance strongly linked to the Rylands V Fletcher instance ( 1868 ) , due to the nature of the instance.

In 1976, Cambridge Water Co purchased Sawston Mill, which had a borehole from which H2O could be pumped from. The H2O was tested at the clip, and was declared suited. Nearby, ECL plc owned a tannery, in which PCE was used within the procedure. Over the old ages, the PCE leaked in little measures and assorted with the groundwater, finally going down, and leaching in the borehole of Sawston Mill, impacting the quality of the H2O. PCE in H2O was non a major job at this, which meant Cambridge Water neglected to prove for it. When the European Directive was introduced, the H2O was tested, and high degrees of PCE were found, taking to the closure of pumps. CWC so sought amendss against ECL, demanding ?1 million in amendss due to the demand of happening a new borehole, and covering the cost of the attempted killing of the old borehole. CWC stated they were apt under three of the four Torts ; nuisance, carelessness and Rylands v Fletcher.

The instance reached the High Court, but the action was dismissed in both nuisance and carelessness. The concluding behind this was that at that clip, there was no possible manner of ECL of cognizing that PCE release were happening, and could non hold foreseen the harm done to the aquifer. The Rylands V Fletcher regulation was considered besides, which states “ the individual who for his ain intents brings on his lands and collects and supports at that place anything likely to make mischief if it escapes, must maintain it at his hazard, and, if he does non make so, is leading facie answerable for all the harm which is the natural effect of its flight ” and that with a demand that this usage of land be “ non-natural. The Judge Ian Kennedy disagreed that PCE was “ non-natural ” as it was on an industrial site, rendering the claim under Rylands v Fletcher shut-in.

CWC appealed to the High Courts, and the determination was reversed, due to the determination being based on the nuisance Tort and the instance Ballard V Tomlinson ( 1885 ) . The statement that ECL was interfering with CWC ‘s right to abstract uncontaminated H2O, which itself was regarded as an actionable nuisance. Although the entreaty was besides claimed under Rylands v Fletcher, this was disregarded. CWC was awarded ?1 million in amendss plus costs.

This caused uproar within industry, with frights that many companies would be apt for ‘historical taint ‘ . The instance was appealed once more, this clip to the House of Lords. The opinion of the instance made of import statements sing the connexion between nuisance and Rylands v Fletcher. Lord Goff considered forseeability ( merely liability where intervention was foreseeable by a individual in the suspect ‘s place – belief that harm was unforseeable ) , non – natural usage ( storage of significant chemicals should be considered non-natural – liberate up limitation on liability under Rylands v Fletcher ) and the tribunals and environmental protection ( mentioning to common jurisprudence as environmental protection – taking to make a statutory government of liability for environmental harm ) . The determination was one time once more reversed in favor of ECL. The chief ground for this was the issue of forseeability of the harm suffered by CWC, as it was believed at the clip that any spilt dissolver would be evaporated.

There are major unfavorable judgments of the how the instance ended. Most conservationists believe the opinion was restrictive due to the debut of the demand of forseeability of the type of harm as a constituent of the regulation in Rylands V Fletcher. Another unfavorable judgment of the opinion is that merely really seldom will it enforce liability for pollution instances such as this one.

To some, it is believed that non adequate drift was placed on the safety of the environment when sing the instance in general. The reaction from Lord Goff seemed to be one of timidness and uninterest in rectifying a error. The fact that the Judgess felt the instance should be dealt with by Parliament instead than the tribunals seem to be a statement that disregards the importance of covering with pollution to the environment.

Fairchild v Glenhaven Funeral Services [ 2002 ]

The following instance of involvement is the Fairchild V Glenhaven Funeral Services Ltd. The instance involved Mr Fairchild, a subcontractor who worked for a figure of different employers, all of which unwittingly exposed him to asbestos. Fairchild so died of Mesothelioma, which resulted in his married woman actioning the employers under the Tort of carelessness. This lead to other people affected with similar state of affairss actioning the companies as good.

The job with finding whether the employers were to fault for Mr Fairchild ‘s decease was that a individual fiber of asbestos can take to the contraction of Mesothelioma, and was hence really hard to find which employer was wholly to fault for the decease. Unlike asbestosis, Mesothelioma is a individual indivisible disease, therefore the claimant can non infer when the asbestos fiber was inhaled taking to the mesothelioma cell going malignant. The inquiry was if the suspects had overexposed Mr Fairchild to the asbestos. All employers were every bit apt. However, this lead to the inquiry of chance, as it was hard to find which employer had exposed Mr Fairchild to more asbestos. Due to this uncertainness, the Court ruled that the claimant was unable to judge if the breaches of responsibility were a cause to the deceased decease. In other words, no amendss were paid to Mrs Fairchild. This is another authoritative instance of the Courts rinsing their custodies of a hard determination. Alternatively of implementing statute law sing asbestos, the claimant ended up with nil. In 2001, the instance Edwin Matthews v The Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers ( 1978 ) Ltd was brought to tribunal, with the same job of exposure of asbestos the cause. Mr Matthews had been exposed while working for several contractors, contracted Mesothelioma, and had sued two of the employers. However, unlike Fairchild V Glenhaven, Mr Justice Mitting had an alternate sentiment on the case.He concluded:

“ I can see no significant difference between stating that what the suspect did materially increased the hazard of hurt to the claimant, and stating that what the suspects did do a material part to the hurt. It seems to me entirely unreal to necessitate a claimant to turn out which fiber, or fibers, inhaled in whose employment, in exactly what fortunes, caused or put off or contributed to the procedure by which one or more mesothelial cells became malignant ” .[ I ]

Mr Justice Mitting

The tribunal ruled in favor of Mr Matthews, who received amendss from both employers, with the logical thinking that even though it could non be determined which employer exposed him to the existent asbestos ensuing in the Mesothelioma, it could be deduced that they had both increased the hazard of him making so. This leads to the inquiry: How can two such similar instances end so otherwise?

Hunter V Canary Wharf

The Hunter V Canary Wharf Ltd [ 1997 ] involved the building of Canary Wharf Tower. However, the building of the tower, which was situated near to BBC ‘s primary telecasting sender, which affected the response of local occupants telecasting. Besides, action was brought against the London Docklands Development Corporation under nuisance besides, due to the dust created from the route building. Over 500 occupants filed instances, including Patricia Hunter, against Canary Wharf under the Tort of nuisance, reasoning that their telecasting licence was now wasted and loss of enjoyment. Originally they filed under carelessness excessively, but the Tort was abandoned shortly after.

During the instance, it was stated that the nuisance in inquiry must be significant, and that lone homeowners with a right to a belongings could register anything under the Tort of nuisance. It was Lord Goff ‘s opinion that a edifice being built in the close locality does non use as nuisance. Initially, the instance of Khorasandjian v Bush [ 1993 ] was brought up, in order to demo that the business of a belongings as a place was plenty to represent action in private nuisance. However, this was rejected in the House of Lords, with the point being that when covering with private nuisance, the right to action can merely be exercised by those with rights to the land affected ( freehold proprietors, renters in ownership ) . The inquiry of dust was rejected as personal hurt does n’t use under the Tort of nuisance.

Due to the connexion made between belongings rights and nuisance, the development of greater protection of the wider environmental jobs has been halted. It was Lord Hope ‘s sentiment that non plenty had been stated within the instance to do a alteration to the jurisprudence in respect to a nuisance.


When sing the statement against the original statement, there are besides many instances to stand for this sentiment. The statement will be fought with illustrations where the Courts topographic point more drift on protecting the environment than on themselves from a tough determination.

Empress Car Company Ltd v National Rivers Authority [ 1998 ]

The instance in inquiry focused on the prosecution of Empress Car Company being sued by the National Rivers Authority, due to the release of ruddy Diesel fuel into a river. An oil armored combat vehicle owned by Empress, was surrounded by a protective bund, in instance of a spill. However, a pipe taking to a smaller oil armored combat vehicle outside the bund was installed to do oil usage easier. However, the oil pat was vandalised by a intruder, which led to the oil overruning from the secondary armored combat vehicle, which in bend led to the taint of a local river.

When the instance reached the Courts, the suspect tried to put the incrimination on the intruder who caused the pat to be unfastened, and had merely created the fortunes which led the intruder come ining the evidences. He besides argued that the engagement of the intruder broke the concatenation of causing. The statement was rejected by Lord Hoffman, who found Empress Car Company Ltd guilty. Another point brought up was the act of bar of a opportunity of taint. It seemed that Empress had a deficiency of a valid backup program if a spill occurred.

The inquiry of liability was resolved in 1991 when the WRA was created, which states that flights of pollutants into controlled Waterss will take to absolute liability.

This is a premier instance when make up one’s minding whether or non the original statement is true. Empress 5 National Rivers Authority reflects that proper incite was made into the environmental consequence when finding the opinion of the instance. It showed that even though the suspect had non straight led to the release of the oil, he was still apt as he did n’t take adequate attention in guaranting that if a spill occurred, it would be dealt with consequently.

Wheeler V Saunders [ 1994 ]

In the instance Wheeler V Saunders [ 1994 ] , Mr Wheeler was a veterinary sawbones who owned Kingdom Farm House. The farm as owned by J.J Saunders, who used it to raise hogs. Wheeler filed a ailment sing the odor of the hogs, under the Tort of nuisance. The tribunal agreed with Wheeler, in respect to the odor nuisance impacting his usage and enjoyment of the land.

The determination was appealed by Saunders, who stated that the allowance of be aftering permission ‘changed the nature of the country ‘ , which so would take to the nuisance Tort being allowable, therefore throwing the instance out. He referred to the instance ofA Gillingham Borough Council v Medway ( Chatham ) Dock Co Ltd, which allowed the edifice of a commercial dock. However, the entreaty was disregarded, with the logical thinking that the instance of hog houses would impact the environing country more dramatically than it would hold sing the Gillingham instance. This determination goes against the original statement as it straight supports the turning away of the environmental consequence of the hog farms.

Transco V Stockport

The Transco V Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council [ 2003 ] involved the aggregation of a big sum of H2O under a block of flats, due to an undetected leak. The leak so spread to a nearby embankment, which led to the embankment fall ining. This in bend led to a gas pipe going exposed and unsupported, due to the land underneath the pipe being washed off. The gas company, Transco, so sued the Stockport Council under the Rylands V Fletcher Tort, in respect to the fixs necessary.

The Courts opinion was that the council was non apt as the sum of H2O from the pipe is non considered a unsafe sum. When sing the Rylands instance, which showed that inordinate sums of H2O can take to hazard of harm, the instance seemed to hold justification. However, Lord Hoffman judged that a burst H2O pipe does non does non number as something inordinate or unsafe.

When sing subdivision 209 of the Water Industry Act ( 1991 ) , which states that although the ‘water mortician ‘ is considered apt when doing harm or loss, they would non incur any liability if the instance in inquiry is sing a specific claimant, such as Public Gas Suppliers, who must see themselves. Due to this, the Court supported the Council.


In respect to the original statement, there are several instances back uping and ignoring the claim. On one manus, there are several illustrations ( many more than stated ) that show a deficiency of will to battle environmental jobs by developing the common jurisprudence. On the other manus, there are besides examples where the tribunals have supported the usage of statute law to assist protect the environment. There seems to be a form when sing the instances back uping the original claim. It seems when the instance in inquiry offers a quandary in moralss, the tribunals are more than willing to brush it under the carpet, instead than happening a better manner of covering with the same sort of job in the hereafter. When mentioning to Cambridge Water Co Ltd V Eastern Counties Leather plc, it seemed the Judge was more than happy go throughing the job over to Parliament than happening a constructive method of covering with it right. The fact that forseeability was considered more of an issue than the non-natural usage of land besides represents this sentiment.