October 2, 2012–San Juan Capistrano, CA–A couple is asking for $25,000 in damages due to a claim that a worker “spooked” the wife’s horse as the woman was taking a ride in November of 2011.
Janelle and Rodney Robinson filed a suit claiming that Janelle was riding on a trail at the J. F. Shea Therapeutic Riding Center when a grounds worker frightened the horse, causing it to fall on her. Her pelvis, hip, and arm were broken in the accident.
Janelle Robinson claims that she and another rider called out to the grounds worker but that he was concealed in the bushes, then suddenly appeared, startling the horse. The worker has not been identified beyond the fact that he was a “government employee.”
The city’s insurance adjustor, Carl Warren & Co., is expected to recommend that the city deny the claim. If that happens, the couple will be forced to file a civil suit to collect damages.
My sincere wishes for a speedy recovery go out to Ms. Robinson after this tragic accident.
Animal-Related Accidents and Falls Can Be Serious, Even Deadly
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more people are injured while riding horses than while riding motorcycles or driving racecars. This is a surprising fact to most people, who consider horseback riding a safe and fun activity. However, horses are extremely heavy animals, and if one falls on a person, serious injury is to be expected. Horses can also be very difficult to control, even for experienced riders, especially if they are startled as was the case in this accident.
Liability Issues For Horseback Riders and Stables
People who provide horses for pleasure riding have an obligation under California law to take elementary precautions to protect the safety of their clients. While there are no “horse laws” per se regarding liability, liability laws that mandate that property owners make their premises safe for visitors may apply, as well as a form of “product liability” for renting the animals or charging for their use.
In this case, the woman and her husband have a secondary liability consideration, as well. If the worker, employed by the company, acted in a way that was clearly dangerous and constituted willful disregard for the rider’s safety, the method of her injury is not as important. The fact that the worker caused the horse to shy is what may lead to a judgment in favor of the plaintiffs.
A professional personal injury attorney can assess the merits of this case and determine if liability exists that could allow the victim to collect damages for her injuries.