Those who lack familiarity with the inner workings of the civil justice system may be under the impression that a lawsuit is either settled or it goes to trial in front of a jury. However, the fact is that not everyone who files suit gets their day in court, so to speak.
Many cases are decided by a judge via a process known as summary judgment. When a judge grants summary judgment, he or she is essentially saying that, even if the plaintiff is given the benefit of the doubt as to questionable evidence, the law will not allow him or her to be successful at trial.
Usually, summary judgment terminates a civil case. However, a party against whom such an order is entered may appeal the trial judge’s decision, and the court of appeals could see things differently.
Facts of the Case
In a recent, not-to-be-published case originating in the McCreary Circuit Court, the plaintiff was a woman who was allegedly injured while riding a horse owned by the defendants. At the time, the plaintiff and her boyfriend were considering purchasing several horses from the defendants. According to the plaintiff’s version of the facts, she was assured by the defendants that the horse was “for a beginner rider,” yet she lost control of him within just a few seconds. She stated that the horse continued to gallop, faster and out of control, until she was thrown into a tree and rendered unconscious. The defendants’ version of the events was quite different, beginning with a claim that the plaintiff was able to ride the horse “perfectly” at first but then took actions that caused the horse to take off into the woods, where the plaintiff fell from the horse.
The plaintiff sought monetary compensation for her injuries, which included two broken vertebrae, broken ribs, a fractured hip, and an injury to her shoulder. Her complaint claimed, among other things, that the defendants had failed to abide by the warning requirements of the Farm Animals Activity Act codified at Kentucky Revised Statutes § 247.401-4029. The defendants replied that they were not liable because none of the exceptions to the Act were applicable in that the plaintiff represented herself as an experienced rider and there was no prior indication that the horse in question was not suitable to be ridden. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants, and the plaintiff appealed.
Holding of the Court
The Commonwealth of Kentucky Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case to the trial court, holding that summary judgment was inappropriate because the plaintiff’s statements (along with those of her companion) were sufficient to present a jury question as to whether the defendants were put on notice that the plaintiff did not possess sufficient ability to ride the horse. The court also found that there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether the defendants willfully disregarded the plaintiff’s safety.
Talk to an Experienced Kentucky Injury Attorney
When a person or business does not take reasonable precautions to avoid injury to others, debilitating personal injuries (and even wrongful death) can be the result. To talk to a knowledgeable Kentucky personal injury lawyer about your Kentucky or Tennessee negligence claim, call English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley today at 270-781-6500 and ask for a free consultation.
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