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Glyn v McGarel-Groves & Others, High Court, 25 July 2005

22 August 2005
The issues

Duty Of Care – Veterinary – Assumption Of Responsibility – Negligence

The facts

The Claimant brought a claim for veterinary fees. The Defendant denied the fees and counter claimed. She sought compensation from the Claimant and the Part 20 Defendant in respect of the death from laminitis of her horse “Anastasia”. It was common ground that the laminitis was caused by the veterinary treatment carried out on the horse by the Part 20 Defendant in the presence of the Claimant.

The horse was valuable, worth £350,000.00. The Defendant developed the horse into a successful dressage competition horse. The horse was competed on a regular basis by an experienced French rider, Mon Assouline (A). A ran a training establishment in Sussex. In 1995 it was agreed that the horse would stay at A’s yard on a permanent basis. A vet was therefore needed. A introduced the Defendant to Mr Glyn, the veterinary surgeon that he recommended.

By 1999 when the horse was being considered for inclusion in the French Dressage Team, the French thought that the horse showed signs of being slightly uneven on her left hind limb. Recommendation was made that the horse receive injections with cortico-steriods. The Defendant was aware of the treatment but not told that the use of the steroids involved a slight risk of laminitis. This was a known risk at the time.

The Judge found that had the Defendant been warned of the risk she would not have agreed to the treatment. Further treatment was required in 2001. Mr A gathered that the proposed treatment would be a repeat of the earlier treatment and told the Defendant accordingly. The Defendant agreed to the proposed treatment on the basis that Mr Glyn would be in attendance to protect her interests and to ensure that the horse was treated properly. On the evidence the Judge formed a strong impression that Mr Glyn was not simply an observed but had played a part in the actual decision making relating to the treatment of the horse when he attended. Mr Glyn denied that his duties involved any form of supervision of the treatment but he accepted that his duties included observing the treatment. The Judge found as a fact that Mr Glyn had accepted that his duty to observe the treatment also involved and gave rise to a further duty to intervene to protect the horse if a proposal for actual treatment was in any way inappropriate.

The decision

1. If the Defendant had been told or warned about the proposed treatment as she should have been she would not have allowed the treatment to go ahead.
2. If the treatment had not gone ahead the horse would not have died.
3.The Second Part 20 Defendant was therefore liable to the Defendant for negligence in the agreed amount of £350,000.00.
4. Mr Glyn was also in breach of duty and was jointly liable in the agreed sum of £350,000.00. He made himself unable to judge whether the proposed treatment was inappropriate by his failure to make any enquiries to the type of steroids that were to be used or the dosages that were to be administered. Mr Glyn had accepted that if he had known that the French vet was proposing to inject 80mg of Triamcinolone into each hock he would have intervened.

If a professional is tasked with observing a procedure it is clearly incumbent upon him to take reasonable steps to clarify and seek an understanding of what he is in fact observing. He needed not only to observe but to obtain a complete and accurate understanding of what he was observing. He did not have such an understanding and was not in a position to fulfil the role he had been given therefore. The apportionment between the French vet and Mr Glyn should be on the basis of 85/15.

Comments

Appeal by Mr Glyn dismissed by the Court of Appeal in July 2006.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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