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Cummings v Granger

[1977] QB 397; [1976] 3 WLR 842;

[1977] 1 All ER 104; (1958) 102 SJ 453;

NEGLIGENCE, DOG, ANIMAL ATTACK, EFFECT OF KNOWLEDGE OF THE RISK, OCCUPERS’ LIABILITY, LIABILITY OF KEEPER FOR INJURY TO TRESSPASSER, VOLUNTARY ACCEPTANCE OF RISK, DEFENCE FROM LIABILITY

Facts

The defendant was the occupier of a breaker’s yard. At night, the yard was locked and the defendant’s untrained Alsatian dog was turned loose in order to deter intruders. One night, a defendant’s associate who had a key for the door and the plaintiff entered the yard. The plaintiff knew about the presence of the dog. The dog attacked the plaintiff causing her serious injury. On the evidence, it was established that the dog’s behaviour was normal for an untrained Alsatian dog with a territory to defend. The plaintiff sued the defendant for damages on grounds of breach the duty contained in s. 2(2) Animals Act 1971. The trial judge found that the defendant was liable under s. 2(2) Animals Act 1971 and none of the exceptions in s. 5 Animals Act 1971 applied, but the plaintiff was 50 per cent to blame for the injuries. The defendant appealed to the Court of Appeal.

Issue

Within the meaning of s. 5(3)(b) Animals Act 1971, is it unreasonable to allow a guard dog to roam freely on a closed premises in order to deter intruders?

Held

The appeal was allowed.

(1) It is not unreasonable to turn loose a guard dog in closed premises in order to deter intruders within the meaning of s. 5(3)(b) Animals Act 1971.

(2) As the plaintiff knew about the dog, she had voluntarily accepted the risk, which absolved the defendant of liability under s. 2(2) Animals Act 1971 by virtue of s. 5(3)(b) Animals Act 1971.


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