Case details

Petroleum Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (Appellant) v Ryan and another (Respondents) (Trinidad and Tobago)

Case ID: JCPC 2015/0080

Jurisdiction: The Court of Appeal of Trinidad and Tobago

Case summary


Whether the Court of Appeal erred in:

  1. its approach to findings of fact made by the trial judge;
  2. making an inference that the appellant’s wrongdoing was a contributory cause of the injury in circumstances where the respondents’ evidence did not satisfy the 'but for' test for causation;
  3. its assessment that the relevant evidence was within the control of the appellant; and
  4. holding that the respondents were entitled to succeed in their alternative claim for nuisance if they failed in respect of their primary claim in negligence.

The respondents have lived since 1994 on land some 45 yards away from an oil well managed by the appellant. The oil well was initially abandoned in 1943 when it was plugged. From 1999 to mid-2005, the appellant arranged for a contractor to collect any oil seepage from the well’s collection pit on a fortnightly basis. In 2006, the appellant decommissioned the oil well by removing the existing plug and re-plugging it. The first respondent has been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and the second respondent, his daughter, has been diagnosed with reactive airway disease. They claim that these diseases were caused by the negligence or nuisance of the appellant in allowing emissions harmful to their health to escape from an oil well under the appellant's control. The judge dismissed the respondents' claims, holding that there were no hydrocarbon emissions after 2006, and that the respondents’ medical conditions had not been caused by any such emanations prior to 2006. The Court of Appeal allowed the respondents’ appeal.



Petroleum Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited

  1. Stanley Ryan
  2. Athena Ryan



Lady Hale, Lord Kerr, Lord Wilson, Lord Carnwath, Lord Hughes

Hearing start date

17 Jul 2017

Hearing start date

17 Jul 2017

Watch hearing
17 Jul 2017 Morning session Afternoon session