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MS Supreme Court Rules in Horse/Car Collision Case

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  • MS Supreme Court Rules in Horse/Car Collision Case

    Time to go to trial. I think the horse owner will win based on this news article.

    "No matter how well you perform there's always somebody of intelligent opinion who thinks it's lousy." - Laurence Olivier

  • #2
    Wow, really? I was under the impression that if your horse escapes, no matter HOW it occurs, you are liable. Maybe just in my state?


    • #3
      No matter how the court rules a jury trial is going to cost a lot and I would venture to guess the horse owner (and plaintiff) have already invested a great deal in attorney fees. A friend of mine was sued over a horse fall (her "date" insisted on riding her horse, she unfortunately relented). Her date fell off when her horse scooted around a tree on a trail, claimed he re-injured his knee... 3 years later she's served w/ lawsuit papers.. dragged on for about 2 years or so...even though she won the case, she still owed her atty about $20K...


      • #4
        The horses have not escaped in two years. So, two years ago they got out of the fence. That suggests to me he does not have a great fence and got lucky for two years and in that case, if they have documentation on the condition of the fence, the horse owner should be held liable.


        • #5
          A fellow I work with (not closely at all) hit a horse and he won his case based on the horse owner being responsible for the horse getting out of the pasture.

          New Year's night I believe, speeding, hit the horse, smashed his windshield out. And he kept right on driving. No windshield, in January and he didn't notice? People tried to stop him, but it didn't work. Horse was killed. Disgusting.


          • #6
            It is, of course, a question of state law, but in general the rule seems to be that if the horse owner can show that the fence was adequate, and there was no negligence on his/her part for the escape, the burden shifts to the injured party that struck the livestock to show otherwise.

            It happened to me in 2008 as well. My fences were in good shape, but while I was away from home for 2 hours on the day after Christmas, someone entered my paddock and then left the gate open.

            I had the forethought to request a police report, so that the evidence that a third party had been on the property was recorded, and I called my homeowner's insurance immediately the next morning, and they sent an adjuster out to take pics of the fence and to write a report.

            It took almost a year to hear from the car insurance on the party that hit my horse, and then a while longer to hear from the first personal injury attorney. My insurance company did a great job standing up to them, and we ended up only being liable for the small portion of my homeowner's policy that will pay $5k for anyone's medical payments that is injured on my property, for any reason.

            We had enough evidence to prove that my fences were in good shape, and that allowed my adjuster to make the burden shifting argument and then, eventually, to push them to accept the medical payments and go away.

            I have never been so grateful for a fantastic homeowner's policy. My claims manager was terrific, and had they filed suit, I would have countersued for the value of the horse. They were able to explain this in such a way that the lawsuit didn't seem worth pursuing. Putting the 16 year old girl on the stand to tell the story of how she held my boy's head in her lap as he died would have been pretty tough to overcome when you are dealing with a jury -- and once they determined we'd go that route and not settle, they weren't interested.

            I'm fortunate, though. I'm an attorney myself and understand lots of the ins and outs of this sort of thing, though I'm not *that* sort of lawyer.

            I now have fences with locked gates. It just makes me feel safer.

            Though nothing will bring my boy back, and that is the worst part of it all. I still miss him every day.

            Libby & Buzzy (Repeat Offender 1997-2008)
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            • #7
              Originally posted by sketcher View Post
              The horses have not escaped in two years. So, two years ago they got out of the fence. That suggests to me he does not have a great fence and got lucky for two years and in that case, if they have documentation on the condition of the fence, the horse owner should be held liable.
              Um, not necessarily. Maybe the owner of the horses had moved to that location two years ago, and he was stating that since that time, he's never had a problem with them getting out. We don't know that the horses got out two years ago based on that statement.
              "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."


              • #8
                Originally posted by gottagrey View Post
                No matter how the court rules a jury trial is going to cost a lot and I would venture to guess the horse owner (and plaintiff) have already invested a great deal in attorney fees.
                I work for a personal injury law firm. Most personal injury law firms operate the way we do: we don't get a dime unless we win/get a settlement. So, WE take all the risks in bringing a case to trial. If we lose, we eat the costs. We pay all filing fees (which are generally fairly modest), costs from obtaining medical records, etc. (usually under $1000) and all the time we spent on our file. If we win, we get a portion (usually one-third) of the award/settlement.

                Defense attorneys generally can be less discriminate when spending money on a file because they're going to get paid no matter what.


                • #9
                  "Negligence" in every state I know of (save LA) requires that a claimant prove four things:

                  First, that the defendant owned them a duty.

                  Second, that the defendant breached that duty.

                  Third, that the loss equates to some monitary sum.

                  Fourth, that the breach of duty caused a loss.

                  From the article the Court seems to be saying that legitimate issues of fact exist on the subject of "breach of duty." The claimant is saying the fencing is inadequate in some regard. The defendant says otherwise. This is a classic "jury question."

                  Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão