PROBLEM: (That word again). At least 112 people have fallen ill in Galway as a result of consuming polluted water from the public drinking water supply, The City Council supplies the water to the city and the County Council supplies the water to the county.
What is the legal position, of an injured person, arising in this situation?
1. The City Council is a thing of statute. Although its powers and responsibilites are defined by statute it is settled law that it is answerable for wrongs it may commit, whether by commission or omission, in exercising its functions.
2. The evidence available (the Council has made admissions) shows that;
a) the public drinking water supply is polluted;
b) the Council supplied the water in its polluted state;
c) people fell ill as a consequence.
3. The Council is obliged in Irish statute law to supply clean and wholesome drinking water to the public. There are good reasons to believe that the admitted breach of statutory duty entitles injured persons to claim compensation on foot of the breach.
4. Separately, and in addition, the Council is a supplier of a âproductâ? within the meaning of the Liability for Defective Products Act 1991.
5. Section 2 of the Act of 1991 reads âThe producer shall be liable in damages in tort for damage caused wholly or partly by a defect in his product.â?Damage includes personal injury.
6. Separately, and in addition, the Council appears to have committed a public muisance. There is a view that liability of this kind is strict, that is, without the obligation to prove, effectively, negligence on the part of the Council.
7. There appears to be evidence that the Council is liable to injured persons under the rule in Rylands v Fletcher (1866) LR 1 Ex 265. Under this rule anyone who brings on his land and collects there something, which, if it escapes, is liable to cause damage is strictly liable for any such damage occurring on its escape.
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