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Says Naomi Smith

Says Naomi SmithIt is all too possible to round a corner on horseback and come upon a group of cattle with no prior warning -this WILL result in a horse being badly spooked at best, bolting at worst -it is only a matter of time ........... read more

Bridleway 43 bollard etc at Awbridge, Hampshire

How rider won battle for compensation after horse was injured by parking bollard

Lessons to be learnt by other riders facing similar battles

Bridleway 43 bollard

Says Mike Brownlow

Says Mike BrownlowIn December 2013 one of our horses was injured when he walked past a low metal drop-down parking bollard that a landowner had placed in the middle of a Right of Way to mark the edge of his land.

The horse cut his leg just above the knee and required 10 stitches. The rider, our daughter, quickly made a tourniquet out of her coat, phoned us to get the vet out and then led the horse home.

We asked the owner for compensation for the vet's bills, and to remove the bollard straight away. The owner said he wasn't liable and the bollard had "permission". However he did offer to change the bollard to make it higher and more visible, which he did by dropping a plastic drain pipe wrapped in warning tape over it.

Bridleway 43 bollard We checked with the Local Authority and they told us they didn't think the bollard was "dangerous", but couldn't confirm if it had permission. They said they'd go and have a look and decide. We also contacted the BHS who were very helpful and confirmed any obstruction should have permission.

We asked the owners again to pay our vet's bill and to remove the bollard, but they continued to deny liability. We chased the Local Authority for an opinion but they were reluctant to comment.

Having waited 6 months, we set out in a "Letter Before Court Action" to the landowner all the reasons we thought they were liable, and gave them 14 days to pay. They didn't.

We filled in an online "Small Claims" form and set out the reasons for our claim and paid the £80 fee. We confirmed we wanted to charge interest on the vet's fees. We didn't include a request for removal of the bollard in the claim, as we felt this would not be something the judge could rule on in a civil case and we'd get nowhere.

The owners refuted the whole Claim saying they weren't liable.

We had a "Conciliation Hearing" in October 2014, where a judge offered us the opportunity to reach a compromise. We were prepared to accept an apology and a contribution towards the vet's fees, but the landowner still refused to accept any liability, so the Claim had to proceed to a court hearing and we had to pay another £60.

The Small Claim was heard in court in January 2015 and the judge found in our favour and awarded costs and interest against the landowner, for a total figure of £200 more than the original vet's bill.

The lessons we would pass on to others from our experience of this accident are as follows:

  • Bridleway 43 bollard Take lots of photographs as soon as you can. Get as much evidence as possible, including asking the Local Authority to look at the obstruction, before you tell anyone you consider them liable. The owner may change or remove obstructions once they know there's an issue, and your evidence is gone.
  • If they do change or remove the obstruction later, all the better because they're admitting the original could be dangerous or unauthorised.
  • Keep a record of the time of day, weather, other witnesses etc. Luckily we had a phone call log time from the vets which proved it was still "twilight" when we called them. The landowners claimed the accident occurred "in the dark". They also suggested the accident "never happened".
  • Keep contacting the Local Authority. We finally got an email from them saying the bollard did not have authorisation, just in time for the final hearing. The judge accepted this late information and it helped our case as the landowner had nothing in writing.
  • Make sure all your evidence and witness statements are consistent. Unfortunately our vet said the cut was on a different leg to the one mentioned in the rider's statement, which the landowners challenged. Luckily the judge agreed there can have been only one injury that day.
  • The landowner asked why the horse was owned by our daughter and yet the vet's bill was paid for by her parents. He said we should be suing our daughter for the money! The judge said she was satisfied that we were the ones who suffered the financial loss.
  • For a Small Claim, the court doesn't expect you, or the defendant, to take solicitors with them to hearings. In fact they actively discourage it.
  • Finally, always take a mobile phone when you ride! In this case, not only were we able to drive out to meet our daughter and help her, but if we'd waited till she got home before calling the vet, it would have been dark and we'd have struggled to prove the accident occurred at twilight.

We would have been prepared to reach a settlement with the landowners, had they offered an apology, removed the bollard and shown any sort of remorse. Their bullish attitude just made us more determined to see the case through, fortunately to a successful conclusion for us.

We are now in discussion with the Local Authority about removing this and other obstructions on this bridleway. Hopefully our successful case will move things along.

Tony Barnett comments

"We must all congratulate Mike and hope his actions will help those that have met with the same hostilities"

Says Tony Barnett

Says Tony BarnettMike, your actions should encourage others too many to mention, some have lost their horse through unlawful impediments and have been unable to get a prosecution because of councils pressure and statements that the works were/are lawful to the court, who in turn are agreeable to comit courtroom fraud to protect the council.

I would wish to add to your advice you have given to others, the main starting point is requesting proof of ownership, evidence that lawful consent has been given, that the definitive plan and statement records this evidence which should be made available at council offices on demand, as the accesses are a public amenity, then any amendment shall be seen on these two documents.

As firms and charities are not subject to an FOI, but if the council has accepted claims of ownership, then an FOI should be made to the council for copies of the documents that have/had been disclosed by the claimants to have the lands registerted as freehold, the persons claiming rights to erect the bollard etc on lawful public access, should have them covered by public liability certificate, this you can demand through your insurance company or get the court to make an order for disclosure, there will not be any on a public right of way.

Remember, even if the land is/was freehold, the rights of access do not belong to the farmer/owner of the land, they have no jurisdiction, but are liable for any damage etc to the right of way.

We must all congratulate Mike and hope his actions will help those that have met with the same hostilities, access rights need supporting, my life's involvement in such matters is sought, that is why I joined Horseytalk.net to help others, the legislation can be complex, but, because the matters are civil you need to know how to progress, it can be sorted out without going to court and without compromising your lawful rights.

Mike Brownlow writes to Maureen Comber

"If we win our case for compensation, it should really help persuade HCC to insist the bollards be removed."

Says Mike Brownlow

Says Mike BrownlowMany thanks for your continuing help with this.

If we can win our case for compensation for the vet fees, it should really help persuade HCC to insist the bollards be removed.

Maureen Comber writes to Tony Brownlow

"I wish there were more like you."

Says Maureen Comber

Says Maureen ComberGood for you for taking it to the wire. I wish there were more like you.

A good start to 2015 and all the best for the rest of it.

Says Linda Wright

Says Linda WrightWe moved to a Shropshire location a year ago having surveyed the local OS map and noted the significant number of bridleways around the property. Sadly the map appears a total fiction. Scarce any of the bridleways are usable ........... read more

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