Sporting injuries are common, but few could be worse than those suffered by a 14-year-old girl who was left paralysed after falling off a horse that was not suitable for her to ride. With the benefit of expert legal support, however, she has won the right to multi-million-pound compensation from the horse's owner.
The girl was a competent novice rider of ponies but had never mounted a fully grown horse. The owner encouraged her to ride a strong and wilful thoroughbred of racing stock that she had only very recently purchased. The girl fell to the ground after the horse went into an uncontrollable canter and suffered spinal injuries that mean she will be wheelchair-dependent for life.
In ruling the owner fully liable to compensate the girl for her injuries, the court found that she had exposed her to a foreseeable risk of injury by permitting her to ride a horse that was bred to race and gallop and could only be controlled in the most benign conditions. As an inexperienced rider herself, purchasing the horse had itself been a serious error of judgment.
The amount of the girl's compensation has yet to be assessed, but her lawyers have valued her claim at more than £3 million. The owner's insurance policy will not suffice to cover the damages, and the court acknowledged that its decision will have dire financial consequences for her. She was also ordered to pay the six-figure legal costs of the case.