Blackpool County Court 1 July 2009
The facts: This was an English personal injuries case. The claimant claimed damages for injuries she suffered when she was attacked by a herd of cows as she was walking along a path across a field with her dog.
The decision: The judge held the farmer liable under the (English) Animals Act 1971, under which there is strict liability for injuries caused by animals in certain circumstances. The judge said the Act applied in this case because the cows had calves at foot which meant that they had unusual characteristics. The 1971 Act does not apply in Scotland, but the Animals (Scotland) Act 1987 also makes provision for strict liability for injuries caused by animals in certain circumstances, although the wording is different from the English Act.
The judge also said that the farmer was negligent because he had not taken appropriate steps to reduce the risks to the public. He could have kept the cows in a field where there was no footpath or fenced off the path. The claimant had not been on a designated footpath, but she had been entitled to deviate from the designated path because it was overgrown with nettles. Also, the farmer was aware that people used the route she had taken.