A horse owner who claimed a veterinary surgeon was negligent in carrying out of a pre-purchase examination on a horse which she bought but later had to have put down has lost her action for damages in the High Court.
Philipa Grahame Knowles, whose livery yard in Shropshire, England, broke in horses for eventing trials, sued John Halley, practising and trading as O'Byrne and Halley Veterinary Surgeons, Fethard, Co Tipperary.
It was claimed Mr Halley failed to identify, from pre-purchase X-rays, defects in the spine of the horse she wanted to buy, called Brockagh Rock.
She originally brought the case in the Circuit Court, which found in her favour, but Mr Halley appealed to the High Court.
Today, Mr Justice Charles Meenan overturned that decision.
He said a difference of opinion between veterinary surgeons as to the interpretation of spinal X-rays would not, of itself, be negligence.
Earlier, he said Ms Knowles, who is now retired, had sought pre-purchase examination, particularly in relation to the horse's spine, because she had previous experience with a horse called Pluto which reached three-star level and gained some 120 British eventing points.
However, Pluto developed what is known as "kissing spine" whereby spinous processes, for sections of bone attached to the vertebrae, are too close together or impinge/overlap on each other. Pluto was forced into retirement as a result.
Anxious that the same would not befall Brockagh Rock, she asked Mr Halley to do a pre-purchase examination with particular emphasis on back X-rays.
Mr Halley found no obvious abnormalities and she bought the animal in January 2013.
However, despite a reasonable start, the horse developed serious problems, the judge said. By July 2013, it had deteriorated to such a point that there were serious safety issues in riding him for eventing and he was later put down.
Mr Justice Meenan said the evidence on behalf of Ms Knowles did not go so far as to establish that consequent injuries sustained by the horse were caused by the abnormalities she claimed were present during the pre-purchase exam.
A veterinary surgeon called by the Halley side said it was highly unlikely the pain suffered by the horse could be attributed to the spinal process.
The judge found there was no significant divergence between the veterinary evidence called for each side and it amounted to no more than a difference of opinion.
He allowed the appeal and discharged the order of the Circuit Court.