A weaning calf who had escaped from his enclosure and was killed by a car on a tar road cost its owner dearly as the motorist, who was injured during the accident, has succeeded in his damages claim against the farmer.
At around midnight on October 12, 2018, Luther King Armstrong Ralikonyana was driving his Opel Corsa when he collided with the calf that had strayed onto the road.
The incident occurred on the N8 road between Bloemfontein and Petrusburg, about 45km from Bloemfontein.
Ralikonyana, 56, suffered injuries as a result of the collision.
He turned to the Bloemfontein High Court to claim damages from the owner of the calf, Louis de Villiers.
Ralikonyana argued that the calf was the property of and under the control of De Villiers. De Villiers thus had a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent his cattle from entering a public road.
Ralikonyana said that the fact that the calf had strayed onto the road and the consequential collision was the direct result of the negligence of the farmer and he was thus liable for the damages.
He accused the farmer of a failure to erect and maintain proper cattle-proof fences that prevented the cattle from escaping from the farm.
The court was told that that was especially the case in ensuring that newly weaned calves were kept in a kraal and/or enclosure to prevent them from breaking out to search for their mothers.
Ralikonyana, who was employed at the Department of Police, Roads and Transport, said that as he had been descending a small hill, he had suddenly noticed a black animal in front of him. He had subsequently hit and killed the animal.
While being trapped inside the vehicle, he had made several calls for help. He had later taken to hospital.
A police officer testified that he had found a dead, black calf lying on a painted island in the middle of the road.
He had tried to ascertain who the owner of the dead calf was by tracking the footprints of cattle found at the scene. The tracks had led to a farm known as Meriba, owned by De Villiers.
The next morning, he had gone to the scene again. He had found De Villiers removing the dead calf from the scene of the accident. He had noticed several farm workers herding cattle.
De Villiers had told told him that he was the owner of the dead calf and that he suspected that the calf, one of several recently purchased, had escaped in an endeavour to reunite with its mother.
De Villiers explained that the week before the incident he had several weaning calves from his neighbour who farms to the north of him, on the opposite side of the N8 road.
After he had purchased the calves from his neighbour, he had transported them with a vehicle to the farm. The calves had been kept with other calves in a pen for a few days to enable them to adapt to the new surroundings.
After four days, they, together with other older calves, had been taken to a larger kraal.
An inspection of the kraal where the calves were kept resulted in an observation that the fencing was in a bad condition and that it was thus it had not been difficult for the calf to escape.
The court was told that young weaning calves would instinctively try to break out from an enclosure to return to their mothers.
It was argued on behalf of Ralikonyana that having regard for the fact that the calves were removed from their mothers, it was clear that a reasonable farmer in the position of De Villiers must have foreseen the possibility that the calves would attempt to break free and stray onto the road.
Therefore, it was said, a reasonable farmer would have taken the precaution of properly maintaining the fence of the kraal to prevent the calves from escaping from the kraal in which they were kept.
Judge Ilse van Rhyn concluded that the farmer was liable to pay the damages which Ralikonyana was able to prove he had suffered.