There has recently been discussion in the national press regarding an 18 year old from England who successfully sued her boyfriend’s mother after she was left paralysed when she fell off her horse.
As a horse owner myself, this story caught my eye and below I have set out the implications that the results from the High Court, London will have on horse owners across the Country.
The young girl in question was only 14 years old when the tragic accident took place. An experienced rider, she was riding a thoroughbred mare which was bought by Mrs Miller, the boyfriend’s mother, having been broken in by a farmer.
The Claimant claims that the mare, Polly, broke out into canter which caused her to lose her balance and fall to the floor. This version of events was denied by Polly’s owner, who states that she was led to believe that the then 14 year old girlfriend of her son was a more experienced rider than she was, and that her mother had given permission for her to ride Polly on the day in question. This version of events was supported by the owner’s son but refuted by the Court.
There is no doubt that the injuries sustained from the fall are tragic, the Claimant sustained a broken back and remains wheelchair bound for the rest of her life. Based on these injuries and her consequential losses; she has pleaded her total claim at £3million. This figure is largely calculated by the lifetime care that the Claimant will require as a result of her lifelong injuries.
The lengthy four year legal battle was strenuously fought by the British Horse Society on the basis of the far-reaching consequences that owners of horses would have to consider if the Court awarded in the Claimant’s favour. The lawyers defending the claim argued that this case will act as a “wake-up” call for all horse owners who often allow friends and family members to ride their horses. This is a common occurrence in our household and I am sure, across many families.
One of the issues raised in this particular claim was that the Defendant, Polly’s owner, did not have specific horse insurance and instead was relying on her third-party liability cover included in her household insurance. However, this policy is limited and does not cover the full potential award of £3million and therefore the Defendant may be required to raise the remaining funds herself. This claim therefore has rightfully raised questions from worried horse owners to the British Horse Society to ensure that they hold adequate insurance for their needs.
The advice from the British Horse Society Charity is simply that “when you lend your horse to other riders [that] they are both competent and have the right insurance in order to protect both the owner and the rider”. In addition to insurance, both owners and riders must continue to ensure they are suitably dressed for riding, however in this instance, these injuries still occurred despite the Claimant wearing a body protector and correctly fitted hat.
It must be noted that claims such as these are very rare, however following this ruling, KBIS (a specialist horse insurance provider) have declared that they will be reviewing the level of cover that they are able to offer.
Finally, Judge Wood has now ruled that the Claimant is entitled to full compensation and specifically noted that “Mrs Miller (Polly’s owner) made a serious error of judgement in acquiring an unsuitable horse at the early stages of her riding hobby”. The Court ultimately ruled that there had been a breach of duty by Mrs Miller and the final quantum award is yet to be determined.