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Thursday, April 13, 2017

riding a horse ~ sad tale of a young girl's injury - million pound law suit..

Is India a litigant State – not exactly ? – there are thousands of cases pending at Courts across States and UTs.  By some statistics there are lakhs of cases failed to have been decided in the last 10 years ~ and what justice if it comes after a decade ? – there are Criminal cases and Civil cases take much longer time to be adjudicated.  But when one asks - what would be the liability scenario in India, in near future ? – it is a totally different picture and newer perspective.

A lawsuit is : a suit, action, or cause instituted or depending between two private persons in the courts of law."  The term refers to any proceeding by a party or parties against another in a court of law.  It may also refer to a civil action brought in a court of law in which a plaintiff, a party who claims to have incurred loss as a result of a defendant's actions, demands a legal or equitable remedy.

In US, there would be lawsuits, batch actions – all brought about in various courts arising out of single or a related event.  In Oct last, there were reports of   Talcum powder lawsuits alleging Johnson & Johnson's Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower products can contribute to the development of ovarian cancer continue to move forward in Missouri Circuit Court in St. Louis. A pool of 50 jurors has already been selected for the litigation's third trial, and the Court is expected to choose the final 12 jurors before opening arguments could begin.  The case scheduled for trial was filed on behalf of a California woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012. According to her lawsuit, the plaintiff was a regular, long-time user of Johnson & Johnson's talc-based powders for feminine hygiene purposes in the years leading up to her diagnosis. She claims that the company was aware of the alleged link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer for years, but failed to take steps to warn consumers.

Moving away, what happens when one rides a horse ? – no, not the ones roaming at Marina beach – even there, there is the risk of injuries though they do not compare with the  risks inherent to moto-racing,  extreme sports and illicit drug use.  In our country, data relating to any such injury would not be available, as there are no authentic sources.  It should not only be the data of injuries and resultant claims, but also data on the no. horses, the no. or riders, the frequency of such rides and more.  Globally, horse riding causes deaths and very serious injuries such as long term paralysis from spinal cord damage.

In UK, many heads turned when a  teenager left paralysed by a tragic riding accident  battled for more than £3million compensation from her ex-boyfriend's mother.Ashleigh Harris had just turned 14 when she broke her back after falling from Polly Perks, a thoroughbred mare owned by Rachel Miller.She was riding Polly in a field in Mathern, near Chepstow, when she suffered catastrophic injuries in 2012.

The accident left the keen rider,  now 19 - with no function in her legs, and she sued Mrs Miller at London's High Court. She was hardly 14, when she broke her back after falling from Polly Perks, a thoroughbred mare owned by her ex-boyfriend's mother Rachel Miller in Mathern, near Chepstow.  Ashleigh, of Woolaston, Lydney, in the Forest of Dean, claimed that  Polly 'misbehaved' and broke into a canter of her own accord, throwing her off in the process.  However, the owner - Mrs Miller, in her 40s, contended that  the horse was blameless and that Ashleigh fell after losing her balance as she descended a 'short and gentle slope'.

The court heard Ashleigh had been taken to a field on 22 September 2012 by Mrs Miller, the mother of her then boyfriend Keiran Miller.Keiransupported  his mother in court, insisting Ashleigh was a competent rider and he had even seen her riding bare back.  The claimant told the Court that she felt Polly was 'fidgety' and had been nipping at her and others.Describing her fall, she added: 'I had been riding for about five minutes and started trotting Polly.'She then went to canter and I held her up because I didn't ask her to.'She was throwing her head around and bucked, then I came out of the saddle and went over the horse's head. I hit the floor and rolled.'

David Westcott QC, for Ashleigh, said she should never have been allowed into Polly's saddle, as she had only ever ridden ponies.She was not an experienced equestrian and was just over five feet tall at the time, he said.He also said the mare was more than a hand higher than Ashleigh's own pony, was 'bred for racing' and had not been well-schooled.The barrister told the court: 'Ashleigh should never have been permitted to ride Polly in an open field on that day.'The risk was that Ashleigh would fall and suffer serious injury, and that is exactly what happened.'

Mrs Miller disputeds Ashleigh's version stating that she  tumbled off Polly as she was riding her at a walking pace down a hill in the field.She also said she had spoken to the teenager's mother before letting her ride the mare, and believed Ashleigh was a more experienced rider.Judge Graham Wood QC asked: 'She may have been trying to impress her boyfriend with her riding skills? There's a cachet in that'.

Month later, Judge Graham Wood QC  ruled that Ashleigh, of Woolaston, Lydney, is entitled to full compensation from Mrs Miller.Polly Perk's owner was bound to suffer "dire financial consequences" as a result, he added.The judge said Mrs Miller, in her 40s, had "encouraged" the teenager to ride the "strong and wilful thoroughbred" and exposed her to a risk of injury.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

12th Apr 2o17.

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