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The leading case of The Mayor, Alderman and Burgesses of the Borough of Bradford v Pickles was the first to establish the principle that it is not unlawful for a property owner to exercise his or her property rights maliciously and to the detriment of others or the public interest. Though controversial at the time, today it is often invisible and taken for granted. This book explores why the common law, in contrast to civil law systems, developed in this way.
During the industrial revolution, the town of Bradford, and with it the demand for water for industrial and domestic purposes, grew rapidly. The first part of the book explores, through an analysis of correspondence, records, and newspaper reports, the development of the Bradford water supply and the genesis of the dispute that ultimately flared into litigation at the end of the nineteenth century.
Several aspects of the case are of enduring doctrinal importance 100 years on. The controversial and potent common law principle of interpreting statutes so as to protect property rights wherever possible is examined in depth, as is the legal uncertainty of subterranean water rights in the nineteenth century.
Finally the book attempts to explain the common lawyers' refusal to recognize a Continental-style doctrine of abuse of rights and the courts' failure to develop a prima face tort doctrine to curb maliciously inspired behaviour.