A man who sustained injuries when he collided with racehorses being worked in the Curragh has had his personal injuries claim dismissed in the High Court.
Finding that the proximate cause of this “unusual, if not unprecedented, accident” was the man’s failure to keep a lookout when he was jogging in the gallops, Mr Justice David Keane said the fact that the man was listening to music on his earphones was “not negligent conduct in and of itself”, but did contribute to the accident.
An unusual accident
On the morning of Saturday, 6 September 2014, Gary Turner was out for a run on the Curragh. Mr Turner said that he ran on the Curragh three or four times per week, for about eight years prior to the accident, and that he frequently took a route through Maddenstown Gallops. Mr Turner testified that he had never seen a single horse in the gallops.
On the morning in question, Tracey Collins was working a group of six racehorses, divided into two batches of three. In her evidence, Ms Collins said that she was watching the first batch of horses quickening their pace when she heard the jockeys shouting, alerting her to the presence of Mr Turner jogging in the gallops. She then began “running as fast as she could towards Mr Turner, while shouting and waving”, and the jockeys were attempting to pull up their mounts.
Mr Turner was insistent that he did not hear either the jockeys or Ms Collins’ attempts to warn him of the approaching horses to his left, and ultimately he ran into the horses path and collided with one of them. Mr Turner suffered a dislocated shoulder and was in severe pain for approximately six weeks after the accident. In bringing the personal injuries claim, Mr Turner averred that he continues to suffer pain and a range of physical and psychological problems as a result of the accident.
Mr Turner claimed that his collision with the racehorse was caused by the negligence or breach of duty of the Curragh Racecourse, Curragh Racecourse Hospitality, Tracey Collins, and her sister, Sheena Collins, who was working for Tracey at the material time.
Considering whether the defendants were negligent, Mr Justice Keane firstly rejected Mr Turner’s submission that there should have been a temporary sign erected when the gallops were in use.
Noting that Mr Turner had not looked to the left or the right of the route along which he had chosen to run because he believed “there was no reason to”, Mr Justice Keane said he was not satisfied that Mr Turner would have seen a temporary sign. He also rejected the contention that the gallops should have been cordoned off. Indeed, Mr Justice Keane was satisfied that none of the defendants could be found in breach of any duty of care owed to Mr Turner in the circumstances of the accident.
Mr Justice Keane also rejected the argument that Curragh Racecourse was in breach of its duty of care towards him under the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1995.
Was Mr Turner negligent?
Mr Justice Keane then turned to the question of whether Mr Turner was negligent. Mr Turner had candidly admitted that he did not look to his left or right at any time before the collision, and expressed the opinion that there was no necessity to do so when crossing the gallops. Mr Justice Keane outlined three reasons why this was not acceptable:
- In any field, it was reasonable to keep a lookout for the presence of livestock, wild animals, agricultural vehicles and machinery, farmers, agricultural workers, visitors, etc.
- On the Curragh in particular, there are military patrols; the management and conservation activities of the Maor and his (or her) staff; and the racehorse training activities that have been going on there for centuries.
- The whole purpose of keeping a proper lookout is to afford an opportunity to become aware of, and take appropriate measures to deal with, the unexpected, as well as the predictable.
Mr Justice Keane also rejected Mr Turner’s distinction between keeping a lookout when crossing a road and “the blinkers” he said he was entitled to wear when running on the Curragh.
Turning to the fact that Mr Turner was listening to music on his earphones when the accident happened, Mr Justice Keane said this was not negligent conduct in and of itself, but in the context of this case, it did contribute to the accident.
Mr Justice Keane concluded that “the proximate cause of the accident was Mr Turner’s failure to keep a proper lookout, together with his use of earphones to listen to music, impeding – if not eliminating – his ability to hear the approach of the racehorses or the shouted warnings of their approach. It is more than likely that, had he been taking reasonable care either by keeping a proper lookout or by ensuring that he was in a position to hear the sound of the approaching racehorses or the shouted warnings of their approach, he could have avoided the accident by the simple and straightforward expedient of stopping or slowing down”.
Extending his “sympathy” to Mr Turner for the pain and suffering he endured, Mr Justice Keane said he had to dismiss the action as he could not find that the defendants were responsible or liable for the injuries he sustained in the accident.