November 7, 2016
A dispute over liability has been resolved at a hearing of the High Court into a teenager´s claim for a broken back in a horse riding accident.
The claim for a broken back in a horse riding accident was made by Ashleigh Harris from Lydney in Gloucestershire, who at age fourteen was “encouraged” to ride a thoroughbred racehorse by the mother of her then boyfriend, Rachel Miller.
The experience at the Miller home in Malthern, Monmouthshire, started well for Ashleigh – who, although a competent pony rider, had never ridden a racehorse in an open field before. However, after five minutes of trotting, the racehorse broke into a canter that Ashleigh was unable to control.
As the horse and rider descended an incline, the racehorse bucked and started throwing its head. Ashleigh was thrown from the saddle and – despite wearing body armour – broke her back in the fall. Ashleigh is now permanently disabled from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair.
On turning eighteen, Ashleigh made a claim for a broken back in a horse riding accident against Miller – alleging that she should never have been encouraged to ride “a green, unresponsive and uneducated horse” that would be difficult to control.
Miller denied that there was a foreseeable risk of injury, and the case went to the High Court in London to determine liability. The liability hearing took place last week before Judge Graham Wood QC, who was told that Miller had asked Ashleigh to ride the racehorse because Ashleigh had more riding experience than Miller.
Miller told the judge she had asked Ashleigh´s mother if it was okay for Ashleigh to ride the horse and had spoken to her again on the morning of the accident. However, Judge Wood said that Miller was an unreliable witness, particularly in relation to her account of the events leading up to Ashleigh´s fall.
Finding in Ashleigh´s favour, Judge Wood said: “In my judgment, it was reasonably foreseeable that the horse would be strong and difficult to control, and in certain conditions likely to unseat a rider who was not used to managing a horse bred to race and trained to gallop.”
The judge adjourned the hearing so that reports concerning Ashleigh´s future needs can be prepared. Ashleigh´s lawyers believe that, due to the cost of her ongoing specialist care, the final settlement of the claim for a broken back in a horse riding accident could be several million pounds.