Jockey indemnity presents issue for rider liability amid Freddy Tylicki case

Rider is seeking damages from a competing jockey after dangerous fall

If Tylicki’s case is successful, some worry what precedent it might set for rider liability. Photograph:  Tim Goode/Getty Images

If Tylicki’s case is successful, some worry what precedent it might set for rider liability. Photograph: Tim Goode/Getty Images

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The body that represents professional jockeys in Ireland isn’t able to get indemnity insurance for its members and believes it could present a fundamental problem for racing.

The question of indemnity insurance for riders has come to the fore on the back of the £6 million High Court case in England taken by jockey Freddy Tylicki against his former colleague Graham Gibbons.

Tylicki was left paralysed in a fall at Kempton in October 2016 and has argued there was a “breach of the standard of care” between competing jockeys which led to his mount colliding with a Gibbons-ridden horse.

Gibbons’ defence has rejected that and said a ruling against him has the potential to “open the floodgates” for similar claims in future.

The body that represents professional jockeys in Ireland isn’t able to get indemnity insurance for its members and believes it could present a fundamental problem for racing. Photograph: Mark Evans/Getty Images
The body that represents professional jockeys in Ireland isn’t able to get indemnity insurance for its members and believes it could present a fundamental problem for racing. Photograph: Mark Evans/Getty Images

A verdict is expected before Christmas.

The Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) in Britain has indemnity cover for its members but its equivalent in Ireland, the Irish Jockeys Association (IJA), doesn’t.

Former champion jockey Ruby Walsh predicted recently that every rider here will need to get cover should Tylicki be successful.

On Tuesday, the IJA secretary Andrew Coonan backed Walsh’s concerns and said he believes racing’s authorities on both sides of the Irish Sea have failed to appreciate the significance of the case whatever the outcome.

“I feel the Tylicki case will throw up a lot of questions to be considered, not least of which is the fact that in any stewards decision where a rider is deemed to have ridden carelessly for example, does that in itself potentially give rise to a claim by another rider or another owner or another trainer of a horse that has suffered interference or injury?

“And that to me is a very broad implication to this and one which I don’t think has probably been fully addressed or assessed by the governing bodies either in this jurisdiction or in the UK,” he commented.

“We have had cases in the past of riders suing racecourses for injuries they have suffered and have been successful in those.

“We now have a very real situation of a rider suing another rider for very severe personal injuries that he has suffered. If that case is successful, and even if it is not successful, it still doesn’t get away from the fact that at some stage a court may well decide that a rider is responsible,” Coonan added.

Coonan, a solicitor and former amateur jockey, said the IJA has repeatedly looked for similar insurance indemnity to the PJA but haven’t been able to get it.

“I’ve always looked at this with my lawyer’s hat and felt there was a need to have professional indemnity cover in place for riders. The difficulty in getting that indemnity coverage now is considerable and any claim of course makes it more expensive,” he said.

“We have enquired off numerous insurance companies for this. Through our colleagues in the UK (PJA) we have even sought to use the same broker as they use and we have not been able to get insurance cover,” he added.

Coonan said the jockeys association has been trying to deal with the issue since a case taken in Britain 20 years ago by former jockey Peter Caldwell.

The jockeys association has been trying to deal with the issue of rider liability since a case taken in Britain 20 years ago by former jockey Peter Caldwell. Photograph: Keith Birmingham/Getty Images
The jockeys association has been trying to deal with the issue of rider liability since a case taken in Britain 20 years ago by former jockey Peter Caldwell. Photograph: Keith Birmingham/Getty Images

He was injured in a fall at Hexham in 1994 and brought a case against Adrian Maguire and Mick Fitzgerald.

The judge in that case found in favour of the defendants and ruled the incident “reflected the cut and thrust of serious horse racing . . . in theory avoidable but in practice something that is bound to occur from time to time, no matter how careful is the standard of riding.”

No matter what the outcome of the Tylicki case is, Coonan believes it will highlight the risk of indemnity cover for insurance firms in relation to riders.

“It’s not that this case throws up issues. There have always been issues. It’s just that this case has highlighted them,” he said.

Wednesday’s racing action in Ireland takes place on the all-weather at Dundalk where Tony Martin can land the opening claimer with Nibiru.

The Martin team appears to be in good form recently, winning with the well backed Gain De Cause over hurdles at Punchestown on Sunday.

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