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Common Grazings and Sheep Stock Clubs Liability

23 April 2018

There is some confusion and ambiguity surrounding the need for both public and employers’ liability cover for common grazings committees and sheep stock clubs.

Common grazings committees and sheep stock clubs are the backbone of our crofting communities; they can provide a valuable pooled resource and bring massive land-management benefits.

For advice on legal issues, rules and regulations in regard to their set-up, these entities look to SRUC and Crofting Commission. What this document sets to provide is information about the potential need or requirement for public liability and employers’ liability cover.

Sheep Stock Clubs

Whilst termed a club, for the purpose of insurance it is better and more appropriate to view the enterprise as a business with officers and members for the time being. Sheep stock clubs own their own livestock and are therefore potentially responsible where legally liable for any negligent action or management that may occur causing damage or injury to any third party through the ownership of this stock. For example:

Sheep out on a public road in collision with a car – Even if an eventual claim deems that the club were not at fault, there is still defence, reports and investigations to be made which public liability insurance would cover.

Hillwalker – In a tup park who is injured by an animal and blames the club. Again whether at fault or not there is still a legal case to defend, dispute, or pay.

Buildings owned by club – Someone is injured by a panel which comes off in wind or is injured when climbing a stile which collapses causing injury.
In terms of club members, and other helpers and volunteers, doing work at the request or requirement of the club, if a member, helper, or volunteer were injured whilst clipping, shearing, or gathering, they are deemed to be under the club’s control, carrying out a task prescribed by the club. The injured party would be deemed an employee of the club – whether they are paid or not. A claim could be made against the club and viewing this from another perspective the club may want to assist the individual if they’re off work during recovery and/or rehabilitation. Employers’ liability is a requirement.

Common Grazings

Common grazings committees differ from sheep stock clubs because the livestock is not owned by the committee. The Livestock is owned by individual crofters, or in some instances by a sheep stock club.

The owner of the livestock should have public liability insurance to cover their interests in respect of the stock grazing the land. But grazing committees generally are responsible for the management of the land, fences, gates, fanks, and buildings in some cases – so there is still a risk of legal liability for their use, control, and responsibility for any third party injury or property damage arising out of this ownership.

As the grazing committee is made up of members, and for those functioning well – members who carry out maintenance, communal gathering, etc. there is also a need for employers’ liability insurance. In the event of injury these members, volunteers, friends, and family could be considered as employees when carrying out committee/club sanctioned activities.

Would suggest that any individual, club, or committee discuss their responsibilities and seek advice from an insurance professional regarding their risks and requirements and their specific situation; seeking guidance on any issues they’d like clarifying. There is a network of NFU Mutual agents throughout the crofting counties who you can approach; they’d be delighted to discuss the matter further with you. Visit NFU Mutual’s website to find your nearest agent

Our thanks to NFU Mututal for producing this guidance.

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