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Cows in a field

Personal injury case from cattle attack: An examination of duty of care


On 7 August 2020, a particularly hot afternoon, our client, Lynne Davies-Jones was walking along a footpath in fields situated behind the Hollies Estate, Treharris with her two young granddaughters. They entered the fields using a gate leading to the public right of way and walked around the perimeter of the fields before turning back. As they retraced their steps through the gap in the wall and shrubbery, there were around five cows grazing in a small section of the field between Mrs Davies-Jones and the gate. As she turned her back to the cattle to reassure her grandchildren who were afraid, one of the cows ran towards her with its head down. Mrs Davies-Jones had no time to react or get out of the way before the cow butted her with its head, knocking her to the ground, trampling her legs, and falling on top of her. The cow caused multiple serious injuries. Mrs Davies-Jones was fortunate to survive and has made a remarkable recovery from potentially life-threatening injuries.

The claim

A claim was brought against the farmers who owned the cattle and kept their livestock on the land which had a heavy footfall, particularly during the period of lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the school summer holiday, when the incident occurred.

On Mrs Davies-Jones’ behalf, we argued that the farmers owed a duty of care to ensure that the cattle did not cause harm to those people who might foreseeably come within their vicinity, such as when exercising a right of way along the public footpaths and walking through the fields.

We also argued that the farmers had failed to adhere to the guidance set out in the HSE Agriculture Information Sheet, which warns of the hazards associated with keeping cattle, including bulls and newly calved cows, in fields where the public has access. It suggests reasonably practicable ways of controlling hazards for walkers. Emphasis is placed on the risks posed by newly calved cows and cows with calves at foot, where a heightened maternal instinct may cause protective behaviour, particularly when a dog is present.

The guidance reminds those keeping cattle that members of the public are unlikely to understand cattle behaviour and this should be considered when placing livestock on land.

The farmers’ insurers, AXA denied that the farmers owed Mrs Davies-Jones any duty of care, that they took such care as was reasonable to see that she did not suffer injury, and that they were not strictly liable to her pursuant to the Animals Act.

Despite maintaining a denial of any legal liability throughout, once court proceedings were served, the farmers’ insurers entered into negotiations and the claim was settled with a payment of compensation and legal costs to Mrs Davies-Jones, avoiding the need for further litigation and a trial.

Lee Hart, representing Mrs Davies-Jones, said:

I am delighted to have represented Mrs Davies-Jones and achieved a successful outcome for her. She was not familiar with the fields and there were no signs warning of the presence of a bull and cows with calves at foot in the field. Like many people, she was unaware that cattle present a risk of harm, particularly where the cows’ maternal instincts could cause them to behave protectively over their young against perceived threats.

Fatal and life-changing injuries are unfortunately common. According to HSE figures, between April 2022 and March 2023, 27 people were killed while working in agriculture, six of whom where members of the public, including one child. Injuries caused by animals were the most common cause of death.

Mrs Davies-Jones was delighted with the service Lee provided, the successful outcome and felt vindicated in bringing and continuing with the claim, despite the denial of liability. She hopes to raise awareness of the dangers associated with cattle in fields, particularly where there are bulls or calves at foot. She said: “animals can be very unpredictable, so I urge farmers to warn the public of the potential dangers when walking on public right of way through fields.” Following the accident, warning signs were posted at the entrance to the fields adjoining the Hollies Estate.

Speak to an expert

If you would like to speak to a member of our personal injury team, please request a consultation.

Your key contact

Lee Hart

Personal Injury Team Manager

Lee works closely with severely injured people and their families, leading them through the claims process and ensuring they get the best treatment, rehabilitation and care so that they can get their lives back on track as quickly as possible.
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