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Addis & Ors v Campbell & Anor, Court of Appeal, 27 July 2011

8 August 2011
The issues

Dog – failure to control dog – whether dog owner should be liable for a dog’s actions in knocking over a walker – judicial bias.

The facts

On the 30th March 2007, Brian Addis fell and sustained serious injuries. He said he had been knocked over by a dog called Taz, a bull terrier owned by Mrs Campbell and which Mr Leaman, the Second Defendant had taken for a walk. Mr and Mrs Addis visited North Bovey Village in Devon and went to open ground by the ford over the river Bovey where there was a space where dogs could be let off the lead. There were two other dogs there, a black cross breed and Taz. All three dogs were off the lead and played in the river.

At the ford were some stepping stones across the river. Mr Leaman, who was 86, tried to cross the river but slipped and fell. The owners of the cross breed, Mr and Mrs Hart and another went to his rescue. As they were helping him, Mr Addis fell. Either Mr or Mrs Addis told the paramedic who was called that he had been knocked over by Taz.

At Trial the Recorder found that Mrs Addis was wrong in her belief that her husband, who was unable to give evidence, had been knocked over by Taz and that there had been no negligence on the part of the Defendant, and dismissed the claim.

Subsequently, the Claimants discovered facts that they thought meant the Recorder should have recused herself. She was a solicitor in private practice with a practice confined to acting for insurers in claims for damages for accidents caused by horses. She had been active in the British Show Jumping Association and had campaigned for the amendment of the Animals Act 1971 to abolish strict liability. She trumpeted the fact that she had won 9 out of 10 cases for her insurer clients brought under that Act. The Recorder had not disclosed any of these matters to the parties. The Claimants also Appealed against the Recorder’s finding that Taz had not caused the accident.

The decision

This case demonstrated that whenever a Judge had any substantial concern as to whether there was an appearance of bias, the best course was to make full disclosure as early as possible and, if possible, before the Trial date. However, the Court did not need to make a finding on the issue of bias because the Appeal could be decided on the issue of negligence alone. For the purpose of the Appeal it would be assumed that Taz collided with Mr Addis and caused him to fall and suffer his injuries.

Expert evidence had been produced to the effect that Taz was a well managed, well socialised dog who would not under foreseeable circumstances be threatening or aggressive, but that he might in particular circumstances be boisterous in the presence of particular dogs, especially in a confined space or if restrained on a leash.

At the time of the accident Taz was not on a leash, nor was he in a confined space. The expert evidence was also to the effect that Shropshire bull terriers were powerful dogs which could move at considerable speed and in collision with a person, were capable of causing injuries on impact of the sort claimed by Mr Addis. There was no evidence that on any previous occasion Taz had collided with anyone or attacked anyone. Mr Leaman, who walked the dog, had walked Taz twice a week for about 18 months and there was no evidence that she had been negligent in allowing Taz off the lead. The only remaining allegation of negligence therefore was that Mr Leaman should have resumed control of Taz after he had come out of the river. There was however no basis for a finding that Mr Leaman could or should have foreseen that if he did not take control of Taz there was a risk of injury to anyone.

If it was not negligent to allow Taz off the lead before Mr Leaman fell in the water, there was no basis for a finding that it was negligent to leave him off the lead afterwards. The time that had elapsed between Mr Leaman being helped from the river and Mr Addis’ fall was very short and to find Mr Leaman guilty of negligence for not having taken control of Taz in these circumstances would be to impose a very stringent duty of care indeed. Using the formulation used by Lord Justice Aikens in Jones v Whippey, the Court could not be satisfied that a reasonable person in the position of the Defendant would contemplate that injury was likely to follow from his act or omission, bearing in mind that the remote possibility of injury was not enough but that there had to be a sufficient probability of injury to lead a reasonable person in the position of the Defendant to anticipate it.

Appeal dismissed.

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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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