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  1. #1
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    Nov. 29, 2005
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    Default Lawsuit Verdict of $1.2M

    Apoligize now if this is posted elsewhere but I looked and didn't find anything so...

    A $1.2M award to the family who sued a trainer over the death of a 21 yo woman rider.

    http://billingsgazette.com/news/stat...tml?mode=story

    I'm a bit conflicted on it- what are your thoughts???

    On one hand there are a lot of hack/dangerous so called trainers but what impact will this have for good trainers.



  2. #2
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    Default

    I can see it making already way over priced liability insurance going up even more.



  3. #3
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    Default

    Reading the link, I don't think it would have an effect on "good" trainers.

    Plaintiff's argument was that the horse's bolting history AND the trainer's failure to provide "proper equipment" (what ever that is supposed to mean - the article doesn't specify), took the incident out to the "inherent risk" that is covered under the Wyoming Recreation Safety Act. Arguably, "good" trainers would not have a student on a horse with a known bolting history without "proper equipment".

    But as the article does not have sufficient details to really see why the jury found for the Plaintiff (or the extent of the protecting statute), it's real effect on "good" trainers is hard to guess. They could get around it (based on the little given on this case) if they just don't let a client on a horse with a known history of behavior that could cause them injury.



  4. #4
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    Dec. 18, 2006
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by kewpalace View Post
    Plaintiff's argument was that the horse's bolting history AND the trainer's failure to provide "proper equipment" (what ever that is supposed to mean - the article doesn't specify), took the incident out to the "inherent risk" that is covered under the Wyoming Recreation Safety Act.
    I agree. My guess the "proper equipment" issue was important to the case. Too bad it wasn't described more fully for readers.

    E.g. if proper equipment meant a bridle and saddle and a novice rider? Or fencing/footing...e.g. riding outside an arena on gravel? I can't imagine it was lack of helmet...I think that would be the 21 year old's own responsibility.

    I would think that there is a lot more to this story than someone falling from a horse.



  5. #5
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    Default

    I was thinking impact more in the line of insurance as trubandloki mentioned. I'm assuming that the trainer had insurance to cover and whenever there is a loss/payout insurance company get all panicky and make pricey changes.



  6. #6
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    Nov. 16, 2004
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    Default

    I have a couple thoughts on this. First I wanted more info and found this:

    http://www.injurylawnews.com/2009/12...-horse-safety/
    <A Jackson lawyer who won a $1.2 million verdict for the family of a woman who died while horseback riding hopes the judgment prompts a review of safety standards in Wyoming’s equine industry.

    The suit was filed by Leslie Barkhurst, as a representative on the estate of Kristina Barkhurst, deceased, against Wyoming resident Patricia Skinner, dba, Harmony Horsemanship for the wrongful death of 21 year old Kristina, and fraud, misrepresentation, and deceit, alleging decedent, an employee and student of Harmony, was killed while riding a horse that was not properly trained for the no- bridle techniques being used. The suit claimed the owner Skinner was not qualified and had not been able to complete the no-bridle certification program.

    Attorney in the case, Gary Shockey says Wyoming law has up to now given outdoor recreation companies almost blanket immunity from lawsuits concerning wrongful death and injuries.>

    To me it sounds like this was not somebody off the street who wanted to just ride the pretty horsies. I mean employee and student! Tell me she did not know the history of the horse. Also I think it is insulting to her memory for her family to sue over her doing something she obviously loved. If you decide to get on a horse bridleless I think you have to be aware of the risks involved. No matter how good or bad the trainer is.

    My second thought is - Will insurance companies insure anyone as a trainer? Do they ask experience or come and see the facility? Even home insurance drives around and checks to see if you have added trampoline. Seems like they took their risk by insuring someone who does bridleless training.



  7. #7
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    Default

    I'm sure this is just going to make it harder or more expensive for trainers to get insured. I don't like these cases at all; I'm sure the rider knew the risks when dealing with her horse and she chose to participate anyway. I feel bad for the family, but a million dollars isn't going to bring her back.



  8. #8
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    Default

    I guess it means people better not give bridle-less lessons.

    I'm not surprised there was a big verdict on that one, even in Wyoming, for two reasons:

    1. Horse had a history of bolting - oh, yes, perfect candidate for teaching bridle-less work to students.

    2. Teaching students to ride without bridles? WTF?

    Yeah, I know, I've seen videos of Lynn Palm and Rugged Lark, and some other BNT (though not so big I'd ever heard of her) riding without a bridle. But that doesn't mean Susie Q Student has any business being encouraged to ride without a bridle. Especially not by someone who's making money off teaching Susie.

    I don't think the fact that Plaintiff's decedent was an "employee" means much as far as her horse knowledge or riding skills - she could've been a kid who mucked stalls to help pay for lessons.



  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by caryledee View Post
    I'm sure this is just going to make it harder or more expensive for trainers to get insured. I don't like these cases at all; I'm sure the rider knew the risks when dealing with her horse and she chose to participate anyway. I feel bad for the family, but a million dollars isn't going to bring her back.
    "At trial, Shockey maintained the horse had a history of bolting while being ridden. That history, combined with Skinner’s alleged failure to provide the proper equipment to control the animal, took the incident out of the category of “inherent risk,” he reasoned."

    and it also says in the article that this was a natural horsemanship trainer, and the other article talked about bridle-less riding and the trainer being unable to pass the bridle-less certification program, whatever that is... let's be honest now, shall we? it sounds like this was some NH trainer who threw the girl on an ill trained horse with no bridle, no experience and likely no helmet. seems to me like that *is* beyond inherent risk, esp if the 21yo was a beginner rider who was drinking the kool aid, so to speak... the article also mentions the problem that ANYONE can hang out a shingle to be a trainer and manicurists face more certification and scrutiny than horse trainers and that's so true and such a problem!
    My mare wonders about all this fuss about birth control when she's only seen a handful of testicles in her entire life. Living with an intact male of my species, I feel differently! WAYSIDE



  10. #10
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    No matter what the circumstances - judgments and settlements like these will be the death of the horse industry.

    It's not so much that we won't be able to afford insurance premiums - it's that companies are not going to insure equine activities. Too big a risk.

    Something to think about.



  11. #11
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    Why am I not surprised it was a Natural Horsemanship trainer?

    Only a NH trainer would even dream up teaching a horse *and* rider bridle-less at the same time. Or to think their very natural-ness would more than make up for a confirmed bolter.

    I can understand the reason behind the lawsuit. I also see the risks this could pose down the road for other equine professionals. There's no clean end on this sh*t-stick.

    My deepest condolences to the family of the young woman who lost her life.
    You jump in the saddle,
    Hold onto the bridle!
    Jump in the line!
    ...Belefonte



  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by JSwan View Post
    No matter what the circumstances - judgments and settlements like these will be the death of the horse industry.

    It's not so much that we won't be able to afford insurance premiums - it's that companies are not going to insure equine activities. Too big a risk.

    Something to think about.
    Yes. This is our future. It's sad.
    --o0o--



  13. #13
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    Jun. 14, 2006
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    VA
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    Default

    It certainly is sad....

    But I don't think that it really sets a precedent for frivolous litigation within the industry.

    Granted..not a TON of info there...but it sounds like this employer/trainer was misrepresenting herself. I would be willing to bet some $$ that this trainer had a website claiming to BE certified in bridle less or whatever. Had she not claimed that, it would be hard to prove this part:
    fraud, misrepresentation, and deceit
    The trainer had to have made claims SOMEWHERE that both she and the horse were certified in order to set it up, correct?

    Further...where did thy get the info that the horse was a known bolter? That seems odd.

    This kid was from Saratoga. (my family is from Rawlins) People in that area aren't exactly litigious IME. In fact, you're a heck of a lot more likely to die and have your family be like, "Well, that was stupid. Sucks." and move on.

    FYI: Here's the new website...I guess she's in Canada now.

    http://kamloops.kijiji.ca/c-pets-ani...AdIdZ169066259
    You'd think that maybe she'd have learned something about not taking unnecessary risk w/ students...but somehow (from the pics) I don't think so.
    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

    Might be a reason, never an excuse...



  14. #14
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    Oct. 26, 2007
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    Thumbs down

    Quote Originally Posted by BuddyRoo View Post

    FYI: Here's the new website...I guess she's in Canada now.

    http://kamloops.kijiji.ca/c-pets-ani...AdIdZ169066259
    You'd think that maybe she'd have learned something about not taking unnecessary risk w/ students...but somehow (from the pics) I don't think so.
    Why am I not surprised to see a carrot stick in the "trainers" hand. Why do you actually have to take the bridle off to ride bridless? Why can't you just drop the reins and ride off your seat?

    Gees, I didn't think these NH'ers could lose any more of my respect.

    So sorry for the family of the girl who lost her life.



  15. #15
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    Default

    I've spent many years in the liability insurance business and I have seen plenty of claims. This award is unusually high, but I think the plaintiffs' attorney proved gross negligence. No state's equine liability statute will shield someone from gross negligence. It doesn't matter if it's Wyoming or Virginia. Since gross negligence can be hard to prove, I suspect the facts of the case were favorable to the plaintiff.

    As for insurance rates going up now, I don't think so. There are a couple of reasons -- 1)just because the jury awarded $1.2 million doesn't necessarily meant the plaintiff will collect it. If the defendant didn't have liability coverage, the plaintiff will have to collect from the defendant's assets. 2)the defendant can appeal and get the award reduced. This happens often. 3)PL rates increases have to be approved by each state insurance department and must be based on loss experience. Insurance carriers build models that project losses; for all we know the total losses for this line of business may be small this year.

    And I respectifully must disagree with trubandloki's comment about overpriced liability insurance. The liability portion of my CGL policy for my farm is about $1000; the rest of the premium is for property coverage. Even if I get sued for a frivilous reason, I am going to need a lawyer to defend me and its going to cost more than $1K to clear up this matter. Around here that's about 2.5 hours of billable time with an attorney. I actually think equine liability rates are a good value for the protection you get.
    Where Norwegian Fjords Rule
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  16. #16
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    I think 1.2 is actually low for a wrongful death suit on a 21 year old.

    Insurance companies could charge different rates for certified instructors and support programs that teach safe methods and do the testing. Or read up on the industry they insure and just not insure trainers who teach dangerous methods or charge them more?

    Trainers can avoid lawsuits by putting people on safe horses and using tack. I ride without tack, but I sure don't teach it and the lesson barns where I used to do that sure did not support my habits. This was 1+1 of mistakes. Unsafe horse and not industry standards of care and equipment. One or the other might have been OK, but it was a deadly combo. It deserved discouragement by monetary means.



  17. #17
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    "Certification"..by whom, and who's standard and what makes that person the be all end all to decide. What a crock.

    I think it is a sad day. For all involved in the accident and the horse industry.



  18. #18
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    Jul. 21, 2006
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    Default

    Wow. I looked on the website, and one of the pics sure looks like someone riding bridleless. After she got someone killed doing just that.



  19. #19
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    Jan. 2, 2009
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    I also just looked at the website. Those youngsters are riding in rope halters with a rope rein. A rope halter and rope rein are NOT a bridle and would have little effect in stopping a bolt.

    Also, the site states "If you are a beginner you will learn practical safe and fun horsemanship..."

    Children with no saddles and only rope halters/reins do not make for safe!!!
    Unfortunately this wrongful death suit is haveing no effect on this woman trying to kill someone else's child.



  20. #20
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    Default

    A bit of an aside.

    Quoted from the article:

    “Once you are practically totally immune from being sued, the notion of having safety standards, particularly in equine, there is no incentive for the industry to regulate itself,” he said.

    UMMM. Go ride or parasail or [insert dangerous activity here] in Mexico or Guatemala with a guide who could write the book for dangerous equipment, animals and a complete lack of regard for life - human or horse.... who is only interested in separating you from your money.

    THAT will learn ya what immunity from being sued means. The notion of suing anyone for anything down there is ludicrous. This case demonstrates that there is not immunity from being sued and the system worked as it should.

    At least in this case, the family was able to get some compensation, although not nearly enough in my opinion, from this trainer who continues to display poor and dangerous decision making on her website. In a just world, that wingnut of a trainer would no longer be allowed to teach anyone. I don't see how a judgement against someone like that would hurt good trainers.



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