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Warning for Westcountry horse owners


Horse owners in the Westcountry are being warned they could still be held strictly liable for some accidents involving horses and other animals.

South West rural insurance firm Cornish Mutual and specialist lawyer Kelvin Farmaner are keen to remind people that the Animals Act 1971 includes a provision that means owners could be liable in certain circumstances for damage caused by an animal that is not classed as a dangerous species.

Even though the Government recently announced it wants to do away with the generation of no win, no fee cases, owners should err on the side of caution when it comes to protecting themselves against claims for their horse causing injury and damage, says Kelvin, who is partner and head of insurance litigation at Trethowans LLP Solicitors.

Mr Farmaner believes the compensation culture is far from over.  Horse owners in the Westcountry would do well not to get too carried away, even if the Government makes success fees and after the event insurance premiums irrecoverable from the losing side in a dispute.

Cornish Mutual offers a wide and flexible range of bespoke equestrian insurances including cover for personal accident, death or serious injury caused by the horse or while out riding.

Paul Haddrell, Claims Manager with Cornish Mutual, adds: Were continuing to see a high-level of claims made against owners year-on-year for accidents involving their horse or other animals. The nature of owning a horse means these claims can be high in value and so this, combined with the specialist laws that apply to those cases, makes taking out the right insurance cover at the right level an absolute necessity.

Kelvin Farmaner represented one of the parties in a leading case on strict liability, namely Mirvahedy v Henley, in the House of Lords.

Mr Mirvahedy was a hotel manager working in South Devon. He was driving home from work along the A380 when his car collided with a horse which ran across the road. In the collision he suffered serious injuries and brought a negligence claim saying the Henleys (keepers of the horse) had not fenced the field properly and this allowed the horse to get out.

The court rejected that claim but it was alleged the Henleys were still liable for the damage caused by their runaway horse under The Animals Act 1971, even if they had done all they could to make sure the fencing was adequate.

The Court of Appeal and the House of Lords upheld strict liability against the Henleys. They said Section 2 (2) provided two separate elements of liability. The keeper of a horse could be liable where the behaviour was not normally found in animals of the same species and the keeper could also be liable where the behaviour, although not generally displayed by animals of that species, was normal in particular circumstances or at particular times.

In this case, the keepers of the horse were liable because the horses behaviour in stampeding through the fencing and undergrowth onto the road was normal in the particular circumstances; bearing in mind the horse had somehow been spooked.

Kelvin adds that subsequent cases have attempted to narrow the level of a horse owners liability, but strict liability remains. He says attempts to introduce new legislation have so far failed.

For more information about Cornish Mutuals horse insurance products, visit: or call 0845 900 1288.

Trethowans LLP is a major regional law firm with offices based in the South and South West of England.  For more information visit  

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