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A damages suit, filed by a couple who suffered severe injuries when a loose horse crashed into their car in December 2001, has inflated to more than £1 million.

According to a High Court claim, initially filed in Basingstoke County Court on 3 November 2004, valued in excess of £150,000, Susan Carlisle, 52, of Weymouth, suffered injuries that left her requiring “care and supervision for the rest of her days”.

Her husband, Alan, 55, was driving their Ford Escort, with Susan as a passenger, when they collided with a horse called William, who died in the crash. Alan Carlisle suffered a flexion/extension injury to his cervical spine, plus anxiety.

On 24 January this year, the Carlisles’ claim was revalued to “well in excess of £1 million”, resulting in its 7 March transfer to the High Court at London’s Royal Courts of Justice. The claim is not listed for trial until after 18 March 2006.

The accident occurred on the A27 in West Sussex. According to the claim, William and two other horses were being led in headcollars from a field near the A27 when they “became spooked”, broke free and galloped towards the A27.

The claim outlined the accident was the result of negligence under common law and/or breach of statutory duty under section 2(2) of the Animals Act 1971.

The Carlisles initially listed four defendants: William’s owner, Marie Le Count; Stephanie Cooper, who was leading him; Joanne Adsett, who owned the other two horses with “a reputation of being easily spooked” — they bolted ahead of William, but avoided the collision — and Keith Langmead, owner of Decoy Lane, on which the horses were being led, and the yard where they were stabled.

In the latest development, the Carlisles’ claim rose in value to more than £1m and the list of defendants has expanded from four to five, following the 13 June addition of Valerie Barrett.

According to a defence filed by Langmead on 6 December, 2004, Barrett had leased the stables and associated grazing land from him since 1987 and was therefore responsible for running the stables. As a result, an amended claim stated that should it prove Barrett was responsible for running the stables, she would be liable.

Legal representatives acting for all parties declined to comment at this stage.

In March 2003, horse owners Andrew and Susan Henley were held strictly liable for injuries to motorist Hossein Mirvahedy in an accident in Devon in 1996, after their horses escaped from a field. The settlement has never been disclosed.

Simon Mackaness, director of THB British Equestrian said: “The Henley v Mirvahedy case was not helpful to insurers and therefore horse owners and those responsible for the care, custody and control of horses, such as livery yard and riding school owners.

“Complete responsibility seems now to be put upon them by way of strict liability, as a result of the precedent set by this case.”

  • This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (29 September, ’05)


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