Portal:Law of England and Wales/Selected case/4

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Cambridge Water Co Ltd v Eastern Counties Leather plc is a case in English tort law that established the principle that claims under nuisance and Rylands v Fletcher must include a requirement that the damage be foreseeable. The Cambridge Water Company were a company responsible for providing potable water to the inhabitants of Cambridge and the surrounding areas. In 1976, they purchased a borehole outside Sawston to deal with rising demand. In 1980, a European Directive was issued requiring nations of the European Community to establish standards on the presence of perchloroethene (PCE) in water, which the United Kingdom did in 1982. It was found that the Sawston borehole was contaminated with PCE that had originated in a tannery owned by Eastern Counties Leather. Prior to 1980, there was no knowledge that PCE should be avoided or that it could cause harm. The High Court of Justice dismissed the water company's claim because the harm was not foreseeable. The decision was reversed by the Court of Appeal, but restored by the House of Lords in 1993. The decision in Cambridge Water Co made an immediate change to the law, for the first time requiring foreseeability of harm to be considered in cases brought under Rylands v Fletcher and the general tort of nuisance. The decision has been criticised by academics, who highlight flaws in wording which leave parts of the judgment ambiguous and a selective assessment of Rylands that ignores outside influences. (more...)