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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Goat owner charged for damage to property ~ Liability Insurance

Now a days you get to see more goats…… the goat is a member of the family Bovidae and is closely related to the sheep.   To usher in a second 'white revolution' as well as to fulfil its poll promise, Tamil  Nadu Govt implemented  a free cow and goat scheme.  It was claimed that the cherished dream of the Govt. is to enable the poor to stand on their own feet and secure economic development without depending on freebies, Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa said.   

But when ‘a thing is given free, it loses its value’…. ~ there were reports that  beneficiary  women were selling goats given to them free of cost, citing scarcity of fodder.  A couple of months back, Keelavalavu police registered a case against 53 women  of  Boothamangalam village near Melur in Madurai district for selling their goats distributed free of cost by the state government. The government had distributed each beneficiary with four goats each.

In India, Liability insurance is yet to take wings. It primarily offers protection to policy holder from the risks of liabilities imposed by lawsuits and similar claims. It protects the insured in the event the policy holder is sued against. The Motor Third Party insurance is a form of liability insurance….

Sure have heard of ‘torts’… a tort, in common law jurisdictions, is a civil wrong which unfairly causes someone else to suffer loss or harm.  A civil society must prevent crimes, besides those who caused harm should be penalized and those who caused loss or damage should be made to pay for their crime.  The person who commits the tort is called ‘tortfeasor’.  Although crimes may be torts, the cause of legal action is not necessarily a crime as the harm may be due to negligence which does not amount to criminal negligence. The victim of the harm can recover their loss as damages in a lawsuit. In order to prevail, the plaintiff in the lawsuit must show that the actions or lack of action was the legally recognizable cause of the harm. The equivalent of tort in civil law jurisdictions is delict.

Tort law is different from criminal law in so far as – torts may arise out of negligence [not intentional and criminal action]. The main remedy against tortious loss is compensation in 'damages' or money. So, the tortfeasor will have to make good the loss caused due to his acts ….and if the person holds a valid policy, the Insurers will reimburse such costs……… thus in someways, Liability insurance is ‘shifting of cost of harm from tortfeasor to Insurer’.

The tort doctrine  extends  and imposes responsibility upon one person for the failure of another, with whom the person has a special relationship (employer and employee, owner of vehicle and driver).  Vicarious liability is a legal doctrine that assigns liability for an injury to a person  or whose property was damaged not only against the person directly involved but also to another who is legally obliged.  The classic example is the liability of the owner of the truck for the damage caused by the driver of the truck. 

For crime and tort, one generally reports the incident to Police and Law enforcing agencies…….. here is an interesting event reported in TOI whence ‘ three goats were put behind bars for damaging property’.  It is not simply property but ‘property of the State – more specifically of the Police department itself’.  The TOI report states :

The Western trend of charging pet owners for the misbehaviour of their animals seems to have entered the city. The Kilpauk police have filed a complaint against a woman whose three goats reportedly damaged a police patrol vehicle. The goats have been handed over to the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA ).

Police usually park their patrol vehicles outside G3 Kilpauk police station on Poonamallee High Road, near large trees where goats graze. Police said the goats had a record of damaging vehicles of residents and shopkeepers. The goats crossed the line recently, said an officer,when they damaged the stations new patrol vehicle, a maroon Innova. The vehicle reportedly was only 2 days old.  According to the complaint, about 12 goats dented the vehicle by climbing on top of it, damaging the wipers and glass,and scratching the paintof the bonnet and body. When policemen went searching for the vandals, they found only three goats.  They took the animals to the station. The goats belong to Mary Arogynathan,37,a resident of Shastry Nagar. Arogynathan will have to claim ownership of the goats for police to convert the complaint into a first information report (FIR).Police plan to charge the woman under Section 289 (negligent conduct with respect to animal ) of the IPC.

Animal activists say police should be charged for violation of the City Police Act and Municipal Corporation Act of 1919 which bans cattle in city limits. When police saw the goats, they should have handed them over to NGOs like the civic body does,  stated the GM of Blue Cross of India. SPCA inspector P Srinivasalu said the goats have been put in a cage. They weigh around 15kg which is healthy and are fed grass twice a day, he said. They seem healthier after coming here, he says.

Real happenings are more interesting than fiction…… and perhaps Insurers can think of selling more liability policies – to the owners of goats and other pets too…..

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

4th June 2013.

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