Mirvahedy v Henley and another: HL 20 Mar 2003

The defendants’ horses escaped from the field, and were involved in an accident with the claimant’s car.
Held: The defendants were liable under section 2(2). To bolt was a characteristic of horses which was normal ‘in the particular circumstances’, these being some sort of fright or other external stimulus. Section 2 places all animals into one of two categories by their species. Animals either belong to a dangerous species, or they do not. A keeper of an animal is liable for damage caused by his animal dependant upon the category. A dangerous species must meet two requirements, a) that it is not commonly domesticated here and b) that fully grown animals ‘normally have such characteristics that they are likely, unless restrained, to cause severe damage or that any damage they may cause is likely to be severe’.
Lord Nicholls: ‘Take a large and heavy domestic animal such as a mature cow. There is a real risk that if a cow happens to stumble and fall onto someone, any damage suffered will be severe. This would satisfy requirement (a). . . But a cow’s dangerousness in this regard may not fall within requirement (b). This dangerousness is due to a characteristic normally found in all cows at all times. The dangerousness results from their very size and weight. It is not due to a characteristic not normally found in cows ‘except at particular times or in particular circumstances.”

Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, Lord Nicholls
Times 24-Mar-2003, [2003] UKHL 16, Gazette 15-May-2003, [2003] 2 AC 491, [2003] RTR 26, [2003] PIQR P25, [2003] NPC 38, [2003] 2 WLR 882, [2003] 2 All ER 401
House of Lords, Bailii
Animals Act 1971 2 6(2) 11
England and Wales
Appeal fromMirvahedy v Henley and Henley CA 21-Nov-2001
Horses with no abnormal characteristics were panicked, ran out and collided with a car. The car driver sought damages.
Held: The question was not whether the animals betrayed abnormal characteristics of which the owners should have been aware, . .
CitedBreeden v Lampard CA 21-Mar-1985
A riding accident occurred at a cubbing meet. The plaintiff’s leg was injured when the defendant’s horse kicked out. A claim was advanced under section 2. This horse, like any horse, was liable to kick out when approached too closely, or too . .
CitedCummings v Grainger CA 1977
An untrained Alsatian dog was turned loose in a scrap-yard to deter intruders. The dog seriously injured the plaintiff who had entered the yard.
Held: The requirements of section 2(2) were satisfied but the defendant was entitled to rely upon . .

Cited by:
CitedClark v Bowlt CA 26-Jun-2006
A claim was made for personal injury suffered riding a horse.
Held: The court doubted whether a propensity occasionally to move otherwise than as directed can be described as a characteristic of a horse, for the purposes of s. 2(2)(b), but, if . .
CitedWelsh v Stokes and Another CA 27-Jul-2007
The claimant sued a riding stables after she was badly injured on being thrown from the horse provided. Her claim in negligence failed, but she succeeded under strict liabiilty under the 1971 Act, after the judge relied upon hearsay evidence.
CitedFreeman v Higher Park Farm CA 30-Oct-2008
The claimant fell from a horse hired to her by the defendant. She claimed for her injuries, and appealed rejection of her claim in strict liability under the 1971 Act. The horse was known to be lively and occasionally to buck, but the claimant was a . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Animals, Road Traffic, Personal Injury

Leading Case

Updated: 11 November 2021; Ref: scu.179981