The NSW Court of Appeal has dismissed a claim brought by a racehorse jockey suing another jockey for his fall.
In August 2012, jockey Hari Singh was seriously injured when he fell from his horse during a race. There was no argument that the fall was caused by jockey Grant Lynch who rode his horse in a way which caused the horse alongside him into the path of Singh’s horse. Lynch was found guilty of careless ridging by the racing Stewards.
Singh then brought court proceedings alleging Lynch’s riding was negligent and that he was liable for the losses caused by Singh’s injuries.
Initially, the Supreme Court dismissed Singh’s case. It found that Lynch did not breach his duty of care to Singh, and that his injury was caused by the materialisation of an obvious risk which arose during the course of a dangerous recreational activity.
The materialisation of an obvious risk during a dangerous recreational activity is a complete defence to a claim in negligence.
On appeal, Singh challenged the finding Lynch was not negligent and that his involvement in the race as a professional jockey was a ‘recreational activity’. He also argued that Lynch’s dangerous riding in breach of the rules of racing did not constitute an ‘obvious’ risk.
The Court of Appeal dismissed Singh’s appeal and found:
- Lynch’s riding was reckless (rather than careless) and was also grossly negligent.
- there is no basis for excluding professional jockeys involved in sporting activity from exception of liability when it is a dangerous recreational activity.
- when determining the ‘obviousness’ of a risk of injury, the relevant question to be determined was whether the risk of a fall as a result of another jockey’s careless riding, constituted by the deliberate contact with another horse, and contrary to the rules of racing, was the materialisation of an obvious risk.
- the premise of horseracing is that jockeys will compete and ride their horses aggressively, and it is not uncommon for jockeys to push the boundaries and be sanctioned for ‘careless’ riding. This is known to all professional jockeys.
- Singh’s injury was the result of the materialisation of an obvious risk which occurred in the course of a dangerous recreational activity.
While Singh’s claim failed and was no dispute that horseracing was a dangerous recreational activity in that it involved significant risks of physical harm, the Court of Appeal noted that not all injuries suffered by jockeys falling from a horse in a race would be excluded from succeeding.
The Court of Appeal noted that there will always be some risks of horse racing which will not be obvious to a jockey. For example, if the racetrack management was found to have negligently permitted rabbits to burrow under the course, and a horse fell when it put it’s hoof in a burrow, it is unlikely that this would be an obvious risk.
While this defence was successful in this jockey versus jockey case, it does not mean that all claims will fail. Each case will have to be decided on its individual facts and circumstances.
If you feel your circumstances might be similar to these cases, we encourage you to contact us and seek legal advice from an RMB Compensation lawyer about your potential entitlements. We'll be able to help you via a quick phone call, or ask us a question via email.