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‘Dog injury’ claim thrown out by judge

A JUDGE threw out a £160,000 damages claim by a woman who injured her knee when she was knocked over by a ‘boisterous’ black labrador.

In what has been seen as a landmark case for dog owners, Lord Malcolm ruled Patricia Welsh was the victim of a ‘pure accident’ and said the courts should not help to create a society ‘bent on litigation’.

However, the judge also made it clear his ruling did not give owners ‘free rein’ to let their dogs off the lead. The everyday task of taking the dog for a walk may never have been the same again had the ruling gone the other way.

Former lecturer Mrs Welsh was exercising her Golden Retriever Cava in a field on March 14 2005 when she was struck by Neil Brady's bitch, called ebony. Her dog had met up with Ebony in the field and the pair, who were both off their leads, came running towards her.

In his ruling Lord Malcolm said the courts should take heed of a warning by Law Lord, Lord Steyn, that: ‘The court must not contribute to the creation of a society bent on litigation which is premised on the illusion that for every misfortune there is a remedy.’

Lord Malcolm added: ‘Unfortunately for the pursuer (Mrs Welsh), for whom I have much sympathy, my conclusion is that reasonable attention to the safety of Mrs Welsh did not require Mr Brady to put Ebony on the lead when she and Cava came into view.

‘The case is that by virtue of their physical attributes or habits, black labradors are likely to injure severely or kill persons unless restrained or controlled. I suspect that for the general population, this proposition would cause much incredulity.’

The judge warned that his ruling did not give all dog owners free rein to let their animals off their leads and said his findings related to this case only.