March 28, 2011
Burnham Brown attorneys Robert Bodzin and David Wilgus won a motion for summary judgment which dismissed this case in November 2010. The claim was filed by Barbara Manning, a woman with almost 50 years of experience as an equestrian instructor and arises out an accident where she got kicked in the face by a pony. Moments earlier, Plaintiff had given a child a riding lesson on the pony and in the crucial moments leading up to the kick, the student was in front of pony walking it the pony into a paddock using a lead-line. Plaintiff was walking a few feet behind the pony Rosie, close to its hind legs - in the "kick zone" - and ended up getting kicked, when the pony provoked by a larger horse in the neighboring stall.
Plaintiff sued the pony's owner as well a related non-profit organization which taught disadvantaged children how to ride and care for horses. Ms. Manning's lawsuit, filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court, alleged strict liability and negligence. Plaintiff, based on one prior kicking incident where no one was hurt, alleged that defendants knew the pony was an animal with a dangerous propensity. Plaintiff also asserted she was not warned about the pony's allegedly dangerous propensities. Defendants denied any liability, noting that Ms. Manning had 50 years of equestrian experience prior to getting kicked, and she should have known to position herself in such a way that she could stay out of the pony's "kick zone." Additionally, defendants argued that the kick that injured plaintiff was not the result of a "dangerous propensity" of the pony, but was merely an example of "a horse behaving like a horse."
As a result of getting kicked, plaintiff suffered significant injuries which resulted in approximately $700,000 in medical and hospital bills. Ms. Manning claimed that as a result of the kick and its aftermath, she had no memory of the accident.
After locating and deposing an eyewitnesses who confirmed Ms. Manning was standing in the "kick zone", Mr. Bodzin and Mr. Wilgus filed a motion for summary judgment. The motion was supported by the opinion of equestrian expert Christine Amber of Gilroy, who confirmed the accident's sole cause was Ms. Manning's negligence and that plaintiff had assumed the risk of getting kicked by standing behind the pony. Mr. Wilgus argued the motion, which dismissed the case and resulted in the cancellation of the trial set for late February 2011. The case will not be appealed by Ms. Manning, who waived her right to appeal in exchange for a waiver of approximately $6,500 in costs.
Robert Bodzin and David Wilgus are attorneys at Burnham Brown who are experienced in defending a broad variety of equestrian and agricultural liability claims. Both attorneys were part of the trial team at a 2009 Sonoma County trial, which defeated a multi-million dollar dispute between horse ranch owners, and included claims of unfair business practices, interference with economic relations, unjust enrichment, nuisance and defamation arising out of allegations of rooster cockfighting that were proven to be true. Burnham Brown's Product Liability and Business and Commercial Practice Groups regularly defend catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death and business loss claims arising out of events which occur at equestrian and agricultural centers. Mr. Bodzin, who is a partner and one of the leaders of both practice groups can be reached at 510-835-6833 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Mr. Wilgus, who is a senior associate at Burnham Brown can be reached at 510-835-6803 and email@example.com.