Complete Defense Verdict - Equine Liability- Collier County

Tampa Partner Brian Rubenstein and Associate Brittany Masterson recently obtained a complete defense verdict in Collier County after a five day jury trial.

This was an Equine Activities case where Plaintiff was injured by a large horse at our Client’s property, which was a horse farm in Naples, Florida.  Plaintiff was instructed by his significant other/Defendant’s employee to retrieve a specific horse, who many of Plaintiff’s witnesses and former Defendant’s employees said had a history of dangerous and aggressive behavior including jumping paddocks, bucking, bolting, throwing riders off of him causing serious injury, and so on. The Plaintiff was allegedly thrown to the ground after the horse charged into him, and he sustained an L1 burst fracture. Plaintiff asked the jury to award $480,000 at trial.

The Defense presented testimony of current employees and the client’s owner about the history of the farm and subject horse and painted a different picture of isolated incidents involving injuries and this horse, and not a pattern or otherwise unreasonably dangerous behavior for this horse other than what is normally expected with horses being unpredictable and large animals. The Insured’s owner acted reasonably at all times in the handling and training of its horses, including the horse in question. Defense argued no liability under F.S. 773.02 (Equine Liability Statute), express assumption of risk, and, in the alternative, comparative negligence.

The jury returned a complete defense verdict after an hour and a half of deliberation by finding that Plaintiff did not meet his burden of proof on either of the two exceptions to Florida’s Equine Liability Statute, F.S. 773.03(b), (d), that Plaintiff argued applied to this incident. 

At carrier’s request, settlement overtures were made at trial to attempt to resolve claim for a reasonable amount and Plaintiff’s lead counsel indicated to her Partner that she thought they had a 90% chance of winning on liability and the lowest Plaintiff’s lead Partner would authorized settlement for at trial was $350,000.

Our team is available to discuss the topics written here and ready to provide additional information contained in this article. Contact us for more information.

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