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Jonathan Hand successfully defends racehorse trainer

Jonathan Hand recently acted for racehorse trainer Ed Walker Ltd in a claim brought by a rider from his yard who suffered a head injury whilst on the gallops at Newmarket.

The rider fell from the horse, a two year old in training at the yard, when it was spooked and whipped round, causing both horse and rider to fall.

The claim was brought under s.2(2) of the Animals Act 1971, which imposes strict liability for damage caused by animals of a non-dangerous species where certain conditions are met.

Jonathan was instructed by Jo Levy of Knights Solicitors, acting for the defendant trainer’s insurers.

The claim was successfully defended at a three day liability trial before HHJ Davies, who found that strict liability under s.2(2) of the Animals Act had not been made out by the claimant.

Importantly, the statutory defence under s.5(2) of the Act was not available because the claimant was an employee, and so the case focused on whether the horse’s behaviour amounted to a dangerous characteristic within the meaning of paragraph (a) of s.2(2). The judge accepted the arguments for the defendant that on the evidence of both the lay witnesses and the equine experts this did not amount to a dangerous characteristic, and the claim failed on that basis.

This is a significant case for claims of this kind arising out of accidents involving animals, since it demonstrates that strict liability under the Act is not necessarily imposed in circumstances where a claimant suffers a severe injury and is an employee of the defendant keeper of the animal which caused the damage.

News 1 Feb, 2017

Authors

Jonathan Hand QC

Call: 1990 Silk: 2019

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