Time to Abolish the Rule in Searle v Wallbank for Negligence and Nuisance Claims

Anthony Gray


In this article, the author suggests that the old common law rule denying that an owner of property owes a duty of care in respect of escaping animals should be abolished. After discussing the original English case in which this finding was made and the reasons for its creation, the author questions whether the principle remains coherent with other legal principles in tort, including the massive development of the common law of tort in recent years. He concludes that the rule is an anachronism and should be abandoned. If the reasoning for the decision were ever applicable to Australian conditions, it is not applicable any longer. The rule reflects an
exception to a general principle of now universal acceptance, without justification. The Australian High Court should take the opportunity to abandon the rule, in favour of the general application of tort principles to resolve such disputes. The courts are an appropriate law reform body in this context.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.21153/dlr2008vol13no2art161


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