Jogger injured by galloping horse could face substantial legal bill

Judge sympathises with Gary Turner but is unable to find liability on part of defendants

Gary Turner, of Walshestown Abbey, Newbridge, Co Kildare, is  pictured leaving the Four Courts after a High Court action. Photograph: Collins Courts.

Gary Turner, of Walshestown Abbey, Newbridge, Co Kildare, is pictured leaving the Four Courts after a High Court action. Photograph: Collins Courts.

 

A jogger who sued after one or more galloping horses collided with him at The Curragh racecourse has lost his High Court damages action and could face a substantial legal costs bill as a result.

Mr Justice David Keane said that while Gary Turner is entitled to “every sympathy” for his injuries and the pain he had endured, the court could find no responsibility, and hence, no liability, on the part of either The Curragh racecourse or two sisters whose family have been training horses there for almost a century.

The proximate cause of the accident, he concluded, was Mr Turner’s failure “to keep a proper lookout”, together with the use of earphones to listen to music, impeding “if not eliminating” his ability to hear the approach of the racehorses or shouted warnings about their approach.

He said it was “more than likely” that had Mr Turner been taking reasonable care either by keeping a proper lookout or ensuring he could hear the sound of the approaching horses or the shouted warnings, “he could have avoided the accident by the simple and straightforward expedient of stopping or slowing down”.

While using earphones as a pedestrian or jogger in a public place is not in itself negligent, he was satisfied it did contribute to this accident, as did Mr Turner’s failure to keep a proper lookout.

Mr Turner, a businessman from Walshestown Abbey, Newbridge, Co Kildare, sued over the collision at the Maddenstown Gallops on The Curragh on September 6th, 2014. The horses were said to be galloping at about 40mph and the force of the collision was such that one jockey was dismounted.

Earphones

Mr Turner said he heard the horses approach from his left after he had run past buildings and onto a grassy area with a fence to his left but had no time to avoid them. He believed two horses hit him and thought he was “dying” afterwards. He suffered a dislocated shoulder and other injuries, has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and said he is in pain constantly.

He sued The Curragh Racecourse and Curragh Racecourse Hospitality Ltd along with sisters Tracey Collins and Sheena Collins, of Cunningham Lodge, The Curragh.

The companies denied claims of negligence and breach of duty, including claims of operating an unsafe system insofar as horses were permitted to ride at speed in the area. In their joint defence, Tracey Collins, a horse trainer, and Sheena Collins, who works for her sister, denied negligence and breach of duty in relation to the collision.

They pleaded contributory negligence on the part of Mr Turner over allegedly running towards a designated 6.6m wide gap for horses in railings without checking whether there were horses galloping through and causing or permitting an emergency situation which they had no reasonable means of avoiding.

‘Unprecedented’

In his judgment, Mr Justice Keane found the “unusual, if not unprecedented” accident occurred between 120m and 139m from the corner of the palisade fence and that, for several seconds before it, the jockeys of three approaching horses to Mr Turner’s left were shouting warnings at him. Tracey Collins, to his left, was running towards him, waving her arms and shouting a warning.

He could not accept that The Curragh Racecourse could and should have averted the accident by erecting a temporary sign or signs when the gallops was in use warning “Look Left For Galloping Horses” or words to that effect.

He noted that Mr Turner had said he did not look to his right or left when jogging on The Curragh plain which meant, if there was a sign, he would not have seen it.

The judge said the dangers inherent in crossing wide open gallops are “directly comparable” to those of visiting precipitous cliffs or the banks of rivers and streams. The Collins sisters were not negligent or in breach of duty in failing to ensure the horses were pulled up before Mr Turner collided with them, he held.

The matter was adjourned to next week for final orders and costs.