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Woman wins compensation claim after being hit by runaway horse truck

By Alan Erwin

A woman seriously injured after being hit by a runaway lorry is to be awarded a six-figure sum in damages.

Diane Victoria Herron was struck by a 7.5 ton horse transporter that careered down a hill following a breakdown in Downpatrick in July 2013.

Despite being initially held stationery by an automatic emergency system, the ordinary hand brake was not engaged.

Read more: Mother and baby hit by runaway horsebox in Co Down

A High Court judge ruled that the lorry's owner, Dale Roberts, and Patrick Murdock, a mechanic who worked on it, were both guilty of negligence.

He held Mr Murdock liable for 75% of the payout, and Mr Roberts for the remaining 25%.

Damages were said to have been agreed at a six-figure sum, plus costs to the plaintiff.

Ms Herron sued both defendants over the multiple injuries she sustained when the lorry crashed into her on Irish Street in the town.

Mr Roberts, a trainer and teacher of equestrian sports, was driving the transporter when it ran out of diesel and broke down.

The court heard that after Mr Murdock arrived at the scene to carry out repairs the vehicle suddenly took off at speed without anyone in control.

It mounted a footpath, striking Ms Herron and causing damage to a number of properties.

Mr Justice Stephens pointed out that work carried out at the scene, including starting the engine and running it for nearly two minutes, resulted in the emergency braking system being released.

He said: "I consider that both defendants were guilty of negligence causing or contributing to the plaintiff's injuries."

The judge described Mr Murdock as an experienced mechanic who had not checked that the parking bake was on.

He also identified a failure to use wheel chocks on a vehicle in a highly dangerous position posing a risk to the lives of others.

"I consider that upon seeing the lorry the second defendant (Mr Murdock) made a casual assumption that it was adequately secured without making any attempt to analyse the situation or consider the safety of others as he out to have done before commencing to work on the lorry," Mr Justice Stephens said.

"He was in a rush and annoyed at being called out, and this prevented a proper and appropriate analysis by him."

Turning to Mr Roberts, the judge said he should have alerted the mechanic that an alarm buzzer had sounded to indicate lowering air pressure in the braking system.

The owner also failed to apply the parking brake or check its position during the repair work, he held.

"If he had done so, the parking brake would have been engaged and this would have prevented the lorry running out of control down the hill."

Determining liability, Mr Justice Stephens concluded that the more serious fault lay with Mr Murdock.

He confirmed: "I apportion liability 25% to the first defendant and 75% to the second."

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