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Owner’s and Trainer’s Liability

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  • #1319
    naps
    Member
    • Total Posts 159

    I am somewhat gobsmacked that Ian Semple is having to endure such a traumatic experience. If he loses this case both owners and trainers will be liable for any injury that has been caused by their horse. With costs as high as they are, insurance premiums going up, and very little return, I wonder how many owners will reconsider their participation in racing.

    http://sport.guardian.co.uk/horseracing/story/0,,2050141,00.html

    (Edited by naps at 9:10 am on April 7, 2007)

    #50727
    seabird
    Participant
    • Total Posts 2924

    Aren’t there signs up on racecourses that people enter the parade-ring at their own risk?

    If the threat of litigation in this country carries on as it is, life as we know it will grind to a halt.

    Colin

    #50729
    Irish Stamp
    Member
    • Total Posts 3185

    Not sure if the owner should take full responsibility.  Was at Bath last September when a 2yo got loose in the parade ring (thankfully for me the race before our filly ran) and to say nobody other than the stable lads and the trainers knew what to do was an understatement.  

    #50730
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    • Total Posts 17722

    Quote: from seabird on 9:22 am on April 7, 2007[br]<br>If the threat of litigation in this country carries on as it is, life as we know it will grind to a halt.

    That’s highly unlikely, given that the legal profession are creaming the compensation culture at all levels, and are so well represented in both Houses of Parliament.<br>A sad reflection, but the more this country gets like the USA, the less chance there is of anything counting but the bottom line.

    #50731
    naps
    Member
    • Total Posts 159

    So in this case, how does one avoid such a situation? There will always be horses that may lash out when spooked. Does that mean we should get anyone who is likely to be in close vicinity to the animal to sign some sort of waiver? ie all stable staff, jockeys etc.  I don’t want to see this litigious mentality spread further into racing. What would be next? Injured jump jockeys suing because the horse wasn’t in his opinion well enough schooled? Or racecourses being sued because their fences were in their opinion unreasonably stiff or unsighted due to sun etc?

    If this action is successful I fear that the floodgates will open and all sorts of racing occurrences that were commonplace and accepted as the risks of racing will be open to litigation.

    (Edited by naps at 10:15 am on April 7, 2007)

    #50732
    apracing
    Participant
    • Total Posts 3087

    <br>I find the logic hard to follow in this case – when Chris Kinane was injured, he was an employee of Ian Williams and working at Wolverhampton racecourse.

    So why aren’t Williams and the racecourse the ones that are liable, if anyone is?

    The unfairness of such a case is that Semple and his owners will presumably face huge costs to defend the action, regardless of whether they win or lose.

    AP

    #50733
    Wallace
    Participant
    • Total Posts 862

    Presumably Kinane’s legal team considered who to pursue and decided Ian Semple would be the easy target. I think Semple’s public liability insurance will provide for this kind of action and hopefully he has sufficient to cover all costs.

    The only winners will be the solicitors and barristers.<br>

    #50734
    guskennedy
    Member
    • Total Posts 759

    Quote: from reet hard on 9:57 am on April 7, 2007[br]That’s highly unlikely, given that the legal profession are creaming the compensation culture at all levels, and are so well represented in both Houses of Parliament.

    Being "well represented" in Parliament isn’t doing Legal Aid lawyers – under attack like never before – much good at present, reet.

    #50735
    ratcliff
    Member
    • Total Posts 18

    When we’ve been racing in France the horses are walked round the parade ring and seem to be mounted at the same  designated place on the walking track , there’s none of this turning in onto the grass from the track to mount<br>Maybe that is safer?[/size][/size]

    #50736
    highflyer1
    Participant
    • Total Posts 210

    This whole thing has an Alice-in-Wonderland feel to it. It was bad enough that Ian Semple was to be sued for negligence under the Animals Act, but the action has now been extended to include the two Owners who are not covered by public liability insurance. In a sane world this whole case would be laughed out of court. How on earth can the Owners be held responsible for their horse spooking in the paddock?

    If this action succeeds, and every follower of horseracing should be praying that it fails, then thousands of small owners like myself will be forced to reconsider their continuing involvement in the sport.<br>

    #50737
    wit
    Participant
    • Total Posts 2152

    The RP at the time reported this:<br>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>><br>Semple said Saameq had become fractious in the saddling area and he had issued repeated warnings that the horse, who was attended by two handlers, could lash out.

    “The horse was on his toes and had got himself hyped up,” said Semple. “I had asked people to move away because he does kick and they were crowding the saddling boxes.

    “I walked ahead of him down the chute into the parade ring to make sure people stood back. I had two handlers on his head and was all the time telling people to give him space.

    “Chris was talking to Jamie Spencer and was walking towards his horse [Not Amused] to leg him up when ours walked past, lashed out and caught Chris smack on the head. I know Chris is a thorough professional and this was not his fault. I pray to God that he will be all right. The parade ring can be a dangerous place.”<br><<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

    <br>The Guardian report has Semple saying that legal action is being taken under the  Animals Act.  Later on it says negligence is being alleged.    These are two different things.

    <br>A. Animals Act:

    The Animals Act imposes strict liability in certain circumstances on the keeper of an animal (ie no negligence need be proven).   A person is a keeper of an animal if he either owns it or has it in his possession.    In Saameq’s case, that would cover the owners and Semple the trainer, so that’s how they come into it.

    One circumstance is where injury or damage is caused by an animal belonging to a dangerous species.   A dangerous species is "one which is not commonly domesticated in the British Islands, and whose fully-grown animals normally have such characteristics that they are likely, unless restrained, to cause severe damage, or that any damage they may cause is likely to be severe."  

    Another circumstance is where injury or damage is caused by an animal which does not belong to a dangerous species (which is likely to be the case with a racehorse), but :

    (1)     the damage is of a kind which the animal, unless restrained, was likely to cause or which, if caused by the animal, was likely to be severe; and

    (2)     such likelihood was due to characteristics of the animal not normally found in animals of the same species or, if so found, only at particular times or in particular circumstances; and

    (3)     those characteristics were known to that keeper, or were at any time known to a person who at that time had charge of the animal as that keeper’s servant.

    In other words, strict liability under the Act for a non-dangerous-species-animal only arises if the particular animal has an abnormal dangerous characteristic, which must be known to its keeper.    

    Question then is whether Saameq had shown such characteristics before.   (In  Flack v Hudson (2001) for example the Court of Appeal found that the  tendency of a horse to bolt near agricultural machinery which was known to the owner but not passed on to the rider, who was thrown and killed when it did exactly that near a tractor, was grounds for strict liability).  

    If there is an abnormal dangerous characteristic, the keeper will have a defence under the Act is he/they can show that the injury/damage was "due wholly to the fault of the person suffering it" or was "suffered by a person who has voluntarily accepted the risk of its happening".        

    However, a person employed as a servant by a keeper of an animal who incurs a risk incidental to his employment is not for these purposes to be treated as accepting it voluntarily (ie if its your job, you can’t for these purposes be said to be voluntarily accepting risks that are part of a job that you have undertaken a duty to do).

    Since Kinane at the time was doing his job in relation to another runner in the race, its unlikely Semple and the owners may be able to mount any defence on the grounds that Kinane had chosen to be somewhere he had no obligation to be – so it would seem a ny question of liability under the Animals act will stand or fall with showing Sameeq had an abnormal dangerous characteristic.

    Semple comments above that "the horse kicks", but a horse kicking surely is very far from being abnormal ?    

    B.  Negligence

    So, assuming no abnormality about Saameq, forget the Animals Act.    That leaves Kinane having to show negligence by Semple / owners under general common law principles.      

    IMO, if Semple’s account at the time is accurate, the owners (if they were not at the scene and/or not actively involved in the incident) are not likely to be held liable in negligence.<br>  <br>The focus would be on whether Semple and his staff who took Saameq to Wolverhampton used all reasonable care when Saameq became fractious to prevent him doing damage to others.    

    If Saameq was left unattended to run amok, the likelihood of negligence would go up.  But he wasn’t.   <br>If Saameq was knowingly being put into an environment where he had flipped before, the likelihood of negligence would go up  But he’d been there twice previously apparently without incident..  

    The mere fact that a racehorse gets frisky does not imply negligence.  

    If Semple’s above account is accurate,  the questions would seem to be around whether they should have taken him at all to the parade ring in that state, or whether they should have kept him at a distance and maybe sought to send him direct to the start.   Who knows – easy to be wise after the event.

    From the above very limited information about events, I’d hazard a guess that :

    a.   the owners (if not actively involved on scene) will end up in the clear in this case fairly quickly; and    

    b.  (still fairly, though not quite as, confidently) Semple (and his insurers) will also end up in the clear legally (even if the insurers end up offering something without admitting liability to avoid a litigation hassle).    

    Its very unfortunate for Kinane, to whom all sympathy and best wishes,but its still the case in England that not everything that happens in life is someone else’s fault so as to attract legal liability.

    Owners of any horses with "an abnormal dangerous characteristic" though do need to be aware of  the strict liability provsions of the Animals Act, since they may well be liable direct to injured third parties, even if they  can  then reclaim from the trainer (or his / her insurers) any payout they have to make direct to such third parties.

    best regards

    wit  <br>

    #50738
    apracing
    Participant
    • Total Posts 3087

    <br>Wit,

    My understanding is that the insurers for Semple have already offered £1M in settlement – the maximum amount covered by his policy – but lawyers for Kinane have turned down the offer.

    Perhaps you can explain the point of this – since Semple has no assets (he was head lad for Gosden before setting up on his own) that come anywhere near matching the amount claimed, what’s the purpose of pursuing the case. Even if Kinane is awarded £3M or £4M, it’s meaningless as he won’t get the money, but Semple will be bankrupted.

    AP

    #50739
    Seagull
    Member
    • Total Posts 1708

    In the case of Wilson V Smith former Lincolnshire Arab racehorse trainer Sally Wilson won 1.5 million from the (husband and wife) owners of a horse called Jazzie who reared up and threw Sally Wilson to the ground leaving her paralysed.

    Her lawyers sued the owners of Jazzie as they claimed there was a breach of common law duty under the Animal Act. <br>It was found that the owners had known the horse was dangerous as they had both seen it ‘rearing up’ in the past but failed to warn Sally Wilson of this when she started to train the horse for Arab racing.

    This case was settled in the High Court last year.<br>

    (Edited by Seagull at 10:29 am on April 8, 2007)

    #50740
    wit
    Participant
    • Total Posts 2152

    AP,

    In those circumstances I can only imagine that Kinane’s lawyers figure they can rope in the owners somehow (are they reputedly wealthy?) – I presume via the Animals Act by showing Saameq to have an abnormal dangerous characteristic.

    Any offer made on behalf of Semple will almost certainly have involved Kinane agreeing to drop his claim in all ways that could possibly boomerang back onto Semple and his insurers.  

    That would include any right of the owners – if they were made to pay out to Kinane – seeking contribution back from Semple and his insurers, so effectively Kinane would have to end everything for the GBP 1m.

    So in what you describe it would be the case that  Kinane (or his advisers) would be aiming higher.

    Slightly silver lining: Bankruptcy isn’t nice at any time, but today its a very different animal to what it was when you or I would  first have been taught to  avoid it like the plague.      

    After the Enterprise Act 2002, a person in Semple’s situation if made bankrupt could well now be discharged from it within 12 months.

    <br>Seagull,

    that sounds right.  As in the Flack case, any owner / keeper must be careful to pass on everything he/she knows about the animal to a new/additional owner/keeper.

    <br>best regards

    wit

    #50741
    Seagull
    Member
    • Total Posts 1708

    On a lighter note goalkeeper Andy Dibble won £20,000 from Carmarthen Council owners of Carmarthen Town’s ground as he suffered ‘burns’ from the pitch markings whilst making a save.

    This is a well known proffesional goalkeeper who played for Cardiff, Luton, Man City and Sunderland so maybe he should have known better than to dive to try and stop a goal in the first place and the club should have errected a sign warning goalkeepers the danger of diving!

    But his goalkeeping mates also suffer strange injuries<br>Man U stopper Alex Stepney dislocated his jaw whist shouting at his defenders in a game against Birm City!

    Dave Beasant missed a lot of games for Wimbledon after dropping a bottle of salad cream on his foot and another similiar injury befell Spanish International Santiago Canzares as he missed the 2002 World Cup after dropping a bottle of aftershave on his foot.

    American keeper Kaisey Keller knocked out his front teeth whist unloading his golf clubs from his car!

    Liverpool reserve keeper Michael Stengard ended his footballing days after he dislocated his shoulder whist erecting an ironing board!

    Arsenal keeper Dave Seaman missed the first half of the 1996/7 season after hurting his knee whilst picking up the remote control for the televison. <br>His England partner David James was out of action after hurting his finger changing channels on his remote control.

    Another to suffer was Sunderland keeper Mart Poon who hurt his genitals whilst playing in a charity match against an Iron Maiden side.

    Stalybridge keeper Mark Statton missed a lot of games after trapping his head in his car door whilst getting in.

    Chelsea man Carlo Cudiccini miised games after hurting his knee whilst walking his dog but Wycombe keeper Frank Talia suffered even worse after cutting off a toe whilst mowing the lawn.

    Back on the subject of horse racing claims top bookie Barry Dennis threatened to sue former judge Jane Stickells and Lingfield Park racecourse after she judged 9/4 shot Welsh Dragon as the winner of a race at Lingfield but a few minutes later changed her mind and awarded the race to 14/1 outsider Miss Dagger this caused the bookies to pay out twice.<br>Still awaiting the outcome on that one though.

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