Claimant awarded compensation for horse bite under Animals Act 1971

Article

01 October, 2013

Amanda Tapp v (1) Trustees Of The Blue Cross Society (2) Kerry Palmer (2013) CC (Northampton) (Recorder Verduyn) 15/05/2013

The Claimant claimed damages for personal injury sustained when she was bitten by a horse owned by the first defendant charity which had been loaned to the second defendant.

The Claimant had gone to check on her horse when she found two horses loose in the yard, having escaped from an adjacent field. As the horses passed the Claimant, one of the horses bit her on the shoulder, pushed her into a stable door, and either kicked or stood on her. The Claimant issued proceedings under the Animals Act 1971 s.2(2). The Defendants raised the defence of voluntary assumption of risk under s.5(2).

At trial the Claimant was able to make out the claim under the Animals Act 1971 as she was able to establish that a horse bite was likely to cause severe injury and that horses might bite in the particular circumstances that had arisen. The horses who had escaped from the field had acquired a freedom they were unused to, with access to food, and had consequently adopted a herd mentality, triggering behaviour like biting.

The Claimant had not engaged with the horse, she had merely entered the yard when the horses came over to her, the defence of voluntary assumption of risk was not available.

Forbes comment

For a horse owner to be liable under the Animals Act, a Claimant must satisfy the test found in section 2(2).

Whilst it is accepted that a horse is not a dangerous animal per se, it is recognised that if a horse causes damage, it is reasonably to be expected that it will be severe.

The Act imposes liability where there is something particular about how a horse has behaved when it caused the injury, it is not intended to make owners liable for damage which results from a 'general' characteristic of the animal. It will only impose liability where there is something particular about how the animal has behaved when it caused damage. Expert evidence is therefore often crucial when determining what is 'normal' behaviour and what is not.

For further advice please contact Elizabeth Bower by email or on 01254 222399.

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