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Wild Horses: Norma Cuthbertson v Murray Bain T/A Harelaw Equestrian Centre

12 March 2020

Cuthbertson v Murray Bain T/A Harelaw Equestrian Centre [2020] SC EDIN 3 reminds us of the famous Rolling Stones song, ‘Wild Horses’, and of how important it is not to let ‘wild horses drag you away’ from the crucial task of early investigation and in-gathering of evidence after an accident.

The pursuer was an experienced rider who was taking part in a hack along Longniddry beach, East Lothian. Four other riders took part, including the defender’s employee who was tasked with supervising the hack. The pursuer fell from her horse and sustained serious injuries. She alleged that the defender’s employee caused the accident by allowing the horse she was riding to come too close to her horse. The defender disputed the pursuer’s version of events and disputed liability.

    Katie Anderson

 Katie Anderson
Senior Solicitor

There were a number of different sources of evidence including from the pursuer herself, the other riders and the defender’s employee. There were significant factual discrepancies between the witnesses as to the sequence of events, what caused the pursuer to fall, and how close the defender’s employee’s horse was to the pursuer. The Sheriff ultimately did not accept the pursuer’s evidence on this final, crucial point. The Sheriff accepted the evidence of the defender’s employee that she kept a safe distance between her horse and the horse in front. Ultimately, the reason why the pursuer fell from her horse was held to be unknown. The pursuer’s case failed.

The Sheriff highlighted the discrepancies between the various witnesses’ accounts in his decision. He commented that this was unfortunate but understandable, due to the passage of time as memories fade. He also observed that there were some contemporaneous documents such as the accident report and ambulance records which contained discrepancies. It was very difficult to investigate the reason for these discrepancies more than three years after they were prepared.

These comments highlight the importance of an early and thorough accident investigation, particularly in cases involving animals, whose behaviour can be unpredictable. By their nature, these types of incidents are likely to happen quickly and there may, understandably, be different perceptions from witnesses as to important details such as the timing of events. It will be important after an incident where an injury has occurred to take detailed, written witness statements. Ideally a detailed accident report should be prepared and the source of the information within the report noted.

Our personal injury team at BTO have significant experience of defending claims involving animals and are happy to assist at any stage of an investigation to help give you some ‘Satisfaction’. To quote another song, ‘you might not get what you want, but you might just find, you get what you need.’

Link to Cuthbertson v Murray Bain T/A Harelaw Equestrian Centre [2020] SC EDIN 3

For further information, please do not hesitate to contact:

Katie Anderson, Senior Solicitor, E: / T: 0141 221 8012


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