May 22, 2013

Court of Appeal Judgement: Philip Hide v Jockey Club Racecourses

The Court of Appeal has today ruled in favour of former jockey turned trainer, Philip Hide, awarding him £58k compensation for injuries sustained during a race at Cheltenham in 2006. The ruling overturns the decision at Oxford County Court in July 2012 to reject Mr Hide’s claim against Jockey Club Racecourses, which owns Cheltenham.

Mr Hide was riding in the first race of the day at Cheltenham on 11th November 2006 when his horse ‘Hatch a Plan’ fell at the first hurdle. Mr Hide collided with a solid upright post supporting the railings, fracturing his pelvis and resulting in a hip replacement operation. Mr Hide’s doctors predict that he will need at least one more hip replacement in later life.

On hearing the ruling, Philip Hide said: “I don’t remember anything about the accident because I had a head injury as well. I was put into an induced coma and my parents were warned that it could be bad. Every time I was made to look back at the films I realised it wouldn’t have taken much more to have changed everything for my family and I truly appreciate my good fortune.

“Of course I hoped that the case could have been settled earlier, but the litigation has been very civilised and this outcome means a lot to me.”

Mr Hide’s solicitor is Richard Brooks, a partner in the specialist racing and bloodstock team at Withy King. He said: “I want to emphasise that this case has nothing to do with diluting the sport of jump racing. Like most jockeys, Philip understands the inherent risks involved and enjoyed a challenging ride. Instead, it’s about minimising unnecessary risks of serious injury - in this case, the unnecessary proximity of a solid upright post to a hurdle. The Court of Appeal ruled that the risk of serious injury was not so unlikely that it could be ignored. Accordingly, because steps could have been taken to minimise the risk, the Racecourse was liable to pay compensation.

“I do not want to suggest that Philip’s case represents the need for wholesale changes in racecourse design. The particular features of his case meant his claim was successful where others might not be. Racecourses have a very difficult balancing act to perform and they do it conscientiously so I am sure they will look again at the emphasis they need to put on rider safety. In Philip’s case, a relatively small change could have been implemented to minimise potential injury without affecting the integrity of the sport.”

Paul Struthers, Chief Executive at the Professional Jockeys Association, said: “We’re pleased for Philip that he has been successful in his appeal. We don’t believe the judgement puts any unnecessary burden on racecourses or the regulation of the sport, but we will be asking the BHA and racecourses to review the layout of all obstacles. By ensuring the use of lay-bys or adequate padding where obstacles are located close to solid posts, racecourse would then be minimising the risks as much as possible, which is what this judgement concludes they should be doing.”

Withy King is ranked in the top tier of racing and equestrian lawyers by legal directory Chambers UK; its partners Richard Brooks and Andrew Chalk are described as ‘excellent’ by Legal 500.

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