Blythe v. Birmingham Waterworks Case Brief

Summary of Blythe v. Birmingham Waterworks, Ct of Exchequer, ENG 1856

Facts: The Df had installed water mains in the street with fire plugs at various pts. During a severe frost the plug near PL’s house ruptured and a large quantity of water escaped and entered the PL’s house. The water mains had been installed 25 years ago with no problems to date.

Issue: Whether the Defendants were negligent when they installed the water mains 25 years ago?

Holding: No.

Procedure: Trial Ct jury decided in favor of PL, Df appealed. Reversed.

Rule: Negligence is the omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided upon those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs, would do or doing something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do.

Ct. Rationale: The defendants did not intentionally omit to do what a reasonable man would have done or fail to exercise reasonable precautions. The installation of the water mains by the defendants was done with adequate precaution that would have been exercised by reasonable man under the average circumstances. The frost of 1855 was extremely severe and penetrated to a greater depth than any which ordinarily occurs south of the polar regions. Such a contingency no reasonable man could prepare against.

PL A: The water mains were installed too shallow and the conditions were reasonably foreseeable.

Def A: The extreme frost could not have been adequately prepared against.

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