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UK Law Case Summary

Noble v. Harrison.   

Kings Bench Division. 18th May 1926. Rowlatt and Wright JJ.
This case involved a branch falling onto a highway.

On July 12th 1925 one of the plaintiff's motor coaches was being driven along a public road adjacent to the defendants property. The weather was fine and calm. Without any warning, a large branch fell from an 80 year old Beech tree growing on the defendants land. The branch hit the motor coach and caused damages. The branch had snapped at a distance of 15ft from the trunk and was not dead. It was discovered that the branch had broken at a point where decay had formed through a crack or split but this was not readily visible from the ground. In fact the defendant had appointed a competent woodsman to inspect his trees during the previous winter and this particular tree was considered safe. The plaintiff sought damages for nuisance and breach of duty at Brighton County Court where the judge held that the defendant was not liable for negligence but was liable for nuisance using the principle laid down in Rylands v. Fletcher where an owner must be responsible for damage caused by the escape of a dangerous article from his property.

The defendant appealed.

The appeal was granted. It was judged that an overhanging branch does not necessarily constitute a nuisance unless it interferes with the passage of traffic and that although it became a nuisance after it fell, the owner was not aware of the defect which caused this nuisance. Additionally, it was judged that the principles laid down in the Rylands v. Fletcher case were not applicable here.

  • Appellant = A person who appeals to a higher court.
  • Defendant = A person accused or sued in a court of law.
  • Plaintiff = A person who brings a case against another in a court of law.
  • Respondent = A defendant (esp. in an appeal case).

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