McShane v. Burnwynd Racing Stables Ltd [2015]

A racehorse trainer who was injured in the course of his employment when a horse he was exercising fell and landed upon him, has had his action for damages dismissed, with the Lord Ordinary finding that "actions do happen without actionable fault on the part of another party".

The pursuer raised the case under negligence at common law and breaches of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 and the Work at Height Regulations 20015 after being left with a significant injury to his arm along with a permanent impairment to his left side. The pursuer argued that the horse had fallen due to a number of deficiencies in the layout and construction of the training ground.

The defenders denied that the ground was unsound and pointed out that the pursuer himself had been instrumental in the set- up of the gallop during its initial construction and had provided substantive advice on the most suitable design.  The defenders had never received any complaints about any alleged deficiencies nor reports of the same from any member of staff – including the pursuer.  Unsurprisingly they argued that in his capacity as trainer it was in fact the pursuer's responsibility to ensure that the surface was suitably maintained before riding out.

The Lord Ordinary agreed that there was no defect in the gallop and the case failed under common law and under all the regulations.  When dismissing his case, the Lord Ordinary summarised his view with a rare and admirable simplicity not often heard from the bench, concluding that:

"the horse fell simply because horses do fall sometimes."