Published: Wed, 07 Mar 2018
LMS International v Styrene Packaging and Insulation Ltd  EWHC 2065
Non-natural use of land, negligent storing of dangerous material
The First Defendants operated a factory in a Bradford Industrial Estate, which was owned by the second, third, fourth and fifth defendants. The first defendants, who were owned by the other defendants and of whom the other defendants were shareholders, used the premises to make polystyrene blocks where were used for insulation and polystyrene mouldings which were used for packaging. In August 2003, a fire started on their premises. This fire started while one of the First Defendant’s employees was cutting expanded polystyrene blocks with a hot wire machine. The fire spread very quickly even though the fire brigade responded rapidly and the premises of the First Defendant were destroyed. In addition, the fire, as well as smoke, spread to the adjacent premises of the claimants and also caused damage to the claimants’ premises and what was inside. The claimants made a claim under negligence, nuisance and the rule in Rylands v Fletcher.
The issue in the case was whether what the First Defendants had done constituted a natural and non-natural use of the land and whether bringing polystyrene blocks onto their property was sufficient to allow liability under the rule in Rylands v Fletcher.
The court held that there was liability under the rule of Rylands v Fletcher. The defendant s had both accumulated a dangerous thing on their land which was flammable and their activity constituted non-natural use of the land, particularly because of the way they stored the flammable material (next to hot wire cutting machines) which increased the risk of starting a fire. In addition, the First Defendant was found liable in negligence, as well as nuisance.
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