Spicer v Smee [1946] 1 All ER 489

Fire – Nuisance – Continuing State of Affairs


The claimant’s property was adjacent to the defendant’s land.  As a result of some faulty wiring, a fire broke out on the defendant’s property which eventually spread to the claimant’s land causing physical damage to it.  The claimant sued in private nuisance, and the defendant alleged that this could not constitute a nuisance because the act was short lived and not a continuing state of affairs.


Whether the fire was capable of constituting a nuisance considering it had not been started as the result of an accident rather than any act of the defendants.  Whether the fire could be considered a private nuisance considering it was an event rather than a repeated or continuing state of affairs.


The fire could be considered a private nuisance.  A private nuisance arises out of a state of things on one person’s property which causes damage to, or exposes his neighbour’s property to damage.  This was clearly fulfilled by the state of affairs caused by a fire on one person’s land caused by faulty wiring.  The faulty wiring had been a consistent state of affairs and it was this which exposed the neighbour’s land to damage by creating the risk of fire.  The fire in due course did occur, and did damage his neighbours land.  This was sufficient to constitute an ongoing state of affairs and so was capable of being a private nuisance at law.  The defendant’s use of his land (by fitting faulty wiring) created the danger of fire, and exposed his neighbour’s land to harm and physical damage in a way that was a nuisance.