A woman who was trampled by cows is suing the animals’ owner for £1m.

Shirley McKaskie was walking across a field at Greystoke, Cumbria, when she was attacked by a herd of cows belonging to farmer John Cameron, of Greyrigg Farm. The 49-year-old had used a footpath across the field but had strayed off the public right of way.

Mr Cameron found her unconscious in the field after the attack and took her to his farmhouse. She was then taken to hospital where she needed brain surgery.

Ms McKaskie, who had recently moved into the area, is seeking £1m compensation for her injuries. The incident happened when she was crossing the field on her way to meet her partner in a pub at nearby Greystoke Gill.

Her legal representative Christopher Purchas QC told the hearing at Preston County Court that company director Ms McKaskie had managed to get her jack russell terrier Tina over a stile to safety but that she was then ‘tossed around’ by the cows, each of which weighed half a ton.

The animals, he said, acted aggressively. "Cows with calves at foot can be unpredictable and give rise to risk to any members of the public crossing a field, Mr Purchas told the court.

The farmer had a duty, under Common Law, to take reasonable steps to warn the public of the danger.

He said: "The first thing to do is to put up a notice to inform members of the public that that is the situation."

There was a sign marking a public footpath across the field, but a well trodden alternative path was used by many walkers. The court heard Ms McKaskie had diverted from the public footpath, but it was not evident by how far. Straying from the public right of way would make her a trespasser and she would therefore lose the protection of the law.

But Mr Purchas said Mr Cameron had ‘implied licence or consent’ to walkers by not putting up a warning sign.

Ms McKaskie, who was in a wheelchair in court, was cross-examined by Mr Cameron’s barrister Graham Eklund QC. "You must have appreciated this was farmland for animals?” he asked.

"You must have appreciated there might be animals in the field?"

"Yes,” Ms McKaskie replied, “But you would not expect dangerous animals if there was a public footpath."

Earlier, Ms McKaskie was asked by her own counsel, if there had been a sign warning of animals in the field, whether she would have gone into it.

"No definitely not," she told him.

The Health and Safety Executive took no action after investigating the incident in May 2003.

The case continues.