Straying Cattle



In Dunfermline small-debt court yesterday, Sheriff Umpherston heard proof in an action by James Macdonald, nurseryman, Cairneyhill. Pursuer claimed payment of £13 10s from defender in respect of damage done to growing chrysanthemums by cattle which were negligently permitted to stray into the nursery. It was argued for defender that he took all reasonable precautions with the cattle, and that the only negligence in this case was that pursuer left the gate of his nursery open; otherwise the cattle could not have entered.

Sheriff Umpherston, deciding the case for pursuer, and awarding £13 10s damages with expenses, said that a farmer was, of course, entitled to drive cattle along the highway, through the streets of a town, or through villages; but he did not insure all the proprietors of places that cattle passed against any damage that might be done if some of them happened to break loose, through some accident. At the same time, a farmer was bound to take reasonable precautions that he would drive these cattle without injury to the proprietors of the places that they passed. The precautions that he must take did not depend entirely on the number of cattle that were being driven. They depended just as much upon the places through which the cattle were being driven, and also upon the nature of the traffic on the roads that they might be expected to encounter. The place where these cattle were being driven was perfectly well known to defender; he knew the conditions of Cairneyhill fairly well; and he knew the kind of traffic, such as motor bus traffic which was likely to be encountered on the road and which, according to defender, frightened the cattle when they were leaving the grazing field at the side of the road).

The suggestion that the gate leading into pursuer’s nursery should be kept shut was, in the circumstances, out of all question. One could hardly imagine a place like Cairneyhill, with all the gates shut. It would suggest that all the people had gone out of business. One might as well suggest that the entrance into a farm should be kept shut, except when traffic was going in or out. In this case, defender had not exercised all reasonable precautions in taking the cattle along the road. He had one man, who had a dog, and he was there him-self, with his motor car. The man was engaged collecting the cattle in a field, and driving them to the gate, and there was no person to control them once they were on the road, except defender himself, who was more hampered than anything else by the possession of his car at the moment. It was more his direct negligence in the method he took of trying to control the cattle than anything else which ultimately led to the damage done.

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