Vincent Petit v French Republic (2014) H&FLR 2014-34

Administrative Court of Appeal at Nantes (France)

21 July 2014

Coram: Not identified.

Appearing for the Plaintiff: Ms Corinne Lepage (of Huglo Lepage Associés Conseil)
Appearing for the Defendant: Not identified

Catchwords: France – horse riding – algae – gas – death of horse – failure to prevent contamination – liability

Facts: On 28 July 2009 the plaintiff rode his horse onto a beach at Saint-Michel-en-Greve. The beach was contaminated by an outbreak of green algae which was giving off hydrogen sulfide gas as it decomposed. A sign had been placed at the entrance to the beach advising the public to avoid the algae and warning of a threat to health. The plaintiff’s horse became bogged in a mudflat and the prolonged exposure to the gas caused the plaintiff to lose consciousness and the horse to die.

The plaintiff brought proceedings for the loss of his horse against the French state on the basis that it had failed to take proper steps to prevent an outbreak of green algae. The proceeding was dismissed by the Administrative Tribunal at Rennes: Vincent Petit v French Republic (2012), Le Figaro, 29 June 2012. The plaintiff appealed.

Held: Allowing the appeal, that –

1.  The state was responsible for the outbreak of algae because it had not adequately implemented national or European rules on preventing contamination of waters through agricultural activities. Such contamination was accepted as the cause of algal blooms.

2.  The plaintiff had failed to take adequate care, inasmuch as he had taken his horse into a part of the beach particularly exposed to algae. As such, liability was apportioned two-thirds against plaintiff and one third against the defendant.


A written judgment has not been released. This report has been compiled based on the Court’s communiqué and on the reports in Le Figaro of 5 August 2009, 29 June 2012 and 21 July 2014, Le Télégramme of 21 July 2014 and La Voix du Nord of 21 July 2014.