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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 March 2008, 12:04 GMT
Jumping cow crash farmers cleared
Two farming brothers have been cleared of blame over a fatal road accident caused by a cow which became a "wild animal" when separated from its calf.

The cow jumped a six-bar gate and died when it was hit by a car as it stood in the road in Driffield, East Yorkshire.

Derek Shaw, a passenger in the car, was killed and his partner, Helen McKenny, who was driving, was injured.

The Court of Appeal ruled that the farmers could not have known about the cow's "exceptional jumping ability".

The cow, which also jumped a 12ft cattle grid, died in the accident in April 2002.

'Maternal instinct'

Ms McKenny, from Bridlington, sued farmer Peter Foster and his brother, Mark, of Little Houndales Farm at Driffield, near Bridlington, under the Animals Act.

But three judges at the Court of Appeal ruled that the farmers could not have known that the maternal instinct of the normally placid cow would drive the animal to make an "extraordinary" escape.

Lord Justice May said the "exceptional and exaggerated agitation resulting from her maternal instinct so that she was in the state of an excited, wild animal was not normal and was not known to the defendants".

The farmers were sued under a section of the Animals Act which makes owners liable for damage caused by an animal which does not belong to a dangerous species but has dangerous characteristics at certain times unless restrained.

The appeal judges found that although recently weaned cows have a desire to return to their calves, the cause of the accident was this cow's "exceptional jumping ability" which was not known to the farmers.

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