Law Reform Commission of Western Australia
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Project 11(II) - Liability for stock straying on to the highway

Project No. 11(II)

Commenced: 1969
Referred again: 1978
Completed: 1981

At common law there was a rule that owners and occupiers of land owed no duty to road-users to take reasonable care to prevent their animals straying onto a highway. The rule dates back to medieval England when unfenced land made it difficult to control grazing stock and road-users were responsible for their own care. In 1976, the Full Court of the Supreme Court of Western Australia decided that the rule had no place in the modern jurisprudence of Western Australia and that loss caused by animals straying onto a highway should be subject to the ordinary law of negligence ( Thomson v Nix [1976] WAR 141). However, subsequent decisions in other jurisdictions cast doubt upon the correctness of the Full Court decision.

Terms of Reference

In 1978 the Commission was asked to consider and report on whether there should be any change to the law relating to liability for loss caused by stock straying on to the highway.

(This matter was originally referred to the Committee in 1969 and a report was produced in 1970. Due to developments in the case law on this subject, the matter was referred to the Commission again in 1978.)


With the exception of the recommendation dealing with the issue of contributory negligence, the Highway (Liability For Straying Animals) Act 1983 (WA) implemented the Commission’s recommendations.

Last updated: 31-Jan-2017

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