Is that your horse?

July 23, 2009

accident, animals, Negligence

Source:  full case report – http://www.bailii.org/ie/cases/IEHC/2009/H2.html

O’Brien v. Derwin & Others [2009] IEHC

This case concerns a traffic collision on the night of the 21st October 1998 on the N6 road between Athlone and Moate. The claimant’s car collided with a number of horses loose on the road before subsequently crashing into a concrete fence post. The claimant suffered brain damage in the collision, while one horse was killed and another injured.

The issue before the court was whether, on the balance of probabilities, the defendants owned and/or controlled the horses that were loose, and were negligent in allowing them to escape onto the highway causing the accident [3].

As no one had claimed either horse, it was left to the court to decide who the probable owners were. Witnesses described both animals as fine big horses and valued at between €3-10,000 [21]. Because the injured horse was also registered on the Show jumping Association of Ireland records, from here it could be traced to the defendant. Having reached this conclusion, it was then reasonable for the court to conclude that both horses were under the defendant’s control on the night of the accident [23].

Using photographs taken by the claimant’s son the day after the accident [14] and a site visit by the court [15], Mr Justice Charleton concluded that the condition of the fencing (or lack of) was inadequate and as such it was likely that a number of horses did escape from the field onto the highway that evening causing the crash. What then most likely happened is that the remaining horses were rounded up by the defendants that night and hurriedly transferred to another property [26]. The defendants were therefore held liable for the full costs of the accident.

The claimant was awarded €337,394.02 (€160,000 general damages, €177,394.02 special damages)

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About Kris

Associate Professor in Sports Law, Staffordshire University; British Gymnastics Senior Coach

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