Reckless Disregard? The Implications of Paralyzed Freddy’s Lawsuit Against Fellow Jockey
On October 31, 2016, four jockeys fell from their horses at a race in Kempton Park as a repercussion of two horses coming in contact. This contact during a race more commonly known as race interference.
Freddy Tylicki, a former apprentice, was towards the end of the bend into the home straight when his horse collided with Graham Gibbons’, resulting in Tylicki to be thrown to the ground. Shortly thereafter, three other horses and their jockeys became part of the pile-up.
Tylicki sustained substantial life-impairing injuries, including 18 broken ribs, a damaged spinal cord, and an infection that resulted in sepsis after a catastrophic fall at Kempton. The injured apprentice’s injuries resulted in paralysis from the chest down, confining him to a wheelchair for the remainder of his life. Subsequently, Tylicki sued Graham Gibbons to recover damages for the injuries sustained due to Gibbons’ negligent riding.
The Lawsuit: Shouting for Survival
Tylicki sued Gibbons asserting that Gibbons rode as “dangerous in the extreme” and thus breached his duty of care owed to another rider. Tylicki requested six-million dollars’ worth of damages in London’s highest court based on a negligence theory that the accident was completely avoidable. The central issue the court addressed was ‘whether what happened was just a “racing incident”, amounting to a very unfortunate accident with tragic consequences as [Gibbons] contends, or whether the actions of Mr. Gibbons were such that he is liable for the injuries sustained [by Tylicki].’ Ultimately, judge Karen Walden-Smith agreed with Tylicki and held Gibbons’ actions “were not mere lapses of concentration or inattentiveness” but “were undertaken in reckless disregard for the safety of Mr. Tylicki."
To support his claim, Tylicki argued Gibbons maneuvered his horse towards the rail and across the path of Tylicki’s horse. In an effort to discourage Gibbons from persisting on his path, Tylicki shouted “Gibbo!” in an attempt to alert his rival jockey to the imminent danger. Even though he allegedly had his whip in his right hand throughout the race and could have used it, Gibbons did not stop, or attempt to stop, as a means of persisting in maneuvering his horse to the right. As a result, Tylicki asserted Gibbons caused his wipe out, which amounts to riding in a manner that was dangerous reckless disregard for the safety of others and below the standard reasonably expected of a professional jockey.
In contrast, Gibbons attempted to downplay the claim. He argued that the fall was “a racing accident occasioned by the horses coming together, as described, as they travelled at speed around the bend.” Gibbons further added that the fall was not even the result of a “careless misjudgment” because he was unaware of the position of Tylicki’s horse until the contact occurred. Accordingly, he defended that Tylicki’s fall was a type of accident that generally occurs in the sport of horseback racing.
The Royal Court of Justice in London, however, rejected Gibbons’ argument, finding that Gibbon’s rode with a reckless disregard for Tylicki’s safety. The court reasoned that Gibbons knew, or should have known, that Tylicki was on his inside when Gibbons began to bring his horse to the rail. Furthermore, the court noted that Gibbons certainly knew of Tylicki’s presence after he heard Tylicki shout ‘Gibbo.’ Consequentially, Gibbons’ actions in the race met the threshold for negligence liability. Additionally, the court added, even if Gibbons was not aware of the potential danger, he should have been aware that his horse was building pressure onto Tylicki. Gibbons’ legal team warned this ruling would “open the floodgates” for similar cases in the future.
Potential Effect on United States Horse Racing Cases
Although a London court determined Tylicki, its personal injury rationale may trickle into the United States through persuasive advocacy. In particular, Tylicki’s outcome will presumably impact the horseracing industry since this is the first time a jockey has successfully obtained damages against another jockey for an incident of this nature. Horse racing is undoubtably a dangerous sport and presents risks, especially in the heat of intense competition. In some situations, jockeys may make momentary lapses of judgement which may result in another competitor becoming injured. These risks are part of the nature of the sport; however, in light of Tylicki, jockey’s may not make strategic maneuvers in fear of injuring another competitor and being liable for monetary damages.
As Gibbons ‘defense predicted, this case will likely effect the potential instances of negligence in sporting events. Specifically, Tylicki dangers the applicability of the assumption of the risk doctrine, which generally states a participant in a sporting activity cannot hold a co-participant liable for injuries they cause because sporting activity participants “assume” the likelihood of risk at the hands of the co-participants. Ultimately, it allows for potential instances of negligence in sporting contests, particularly at the professional level and forces athletes to be more aware of potential implications of their actions.
See Harry Stewart-Moore, Personal Injury In Horseracing: Court Finds Jockey Guilty Of Reckless Disregard For Safety, Law in Sport (Jan. 28, 2022) https://www.lawinsport.com/topics/sports/horse-racing/item/personal-injury-in-horseracing-court-finds-jockey-guilty-of-reckless-disregard-for-safety?category_id=162 (defining the fall during the race). Kempton Park is a famous racecourse, located in the United Kingdom. The Jockey Club, https://www.thejockeyclub.co.uk/about-us/. The racecourse was founded in 1750 and serves as the largest commercial group in Britain. Id.  See id.  See id. (noting Tylicki was heading for home when Gibbons horse fell and caused Tylicki to be thrown off his horse). Prior to the incident, Gibbons was approximately a half horse length in front of Tylicki when Gibbons horse collided with Tylicki, causing him to be thrown to the ground. Id.  See id. (providing three other jockeys suffered minor injuries). Specifically, one jockey suffered a broken nose. See David Erwin, The Law Of…coming to terms with a life changing injury, Chambers and Partners (Nov. 29, 2016) https://chambers.com/articles/the-law-of-coming-to-terms-with-a-life-changing-injury.  See Stewart-Moore, Supra footnote 1 (providing the injuries sustained severely limited Tylicki from the ability to perform daily functions). The three other jockeys, fortunately, suffered minor injuries. Id. However, Tylicki sustained life impairments.  See id. (highlighting Tylicki’s suffered from T4 AIS paraplegia, which means he is permanently paralyzed from the chest down).  See id. (providing Tylicki’s cause of action against Graham Gibbons). See Tylicki v. Gibbons https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2021/3470.pdf, (last viewed 10 February 2022) (asserting Gibbons caused Tylicki to fall during the race ).  See id. (alleging Gibbons engaged in careless or improper riding in which he failed “to take reasonable steps to avoid causing interference by inattention or misjudgment.”)  See id. at 77 (identifying the issue for the London Court to determine).  Id. at 90. See id. See id. See id.  See id. “[t]he pressure from my left from Mr Gibbons continued the whole way until he bumped into me, instead of coming off me, going away from me, he continued to put the pressure on, come into my racing line and basically wipe me out.” See id. See id.  See Paul Report Staff, ‘Shout for Survival’: Paralyzed Jockey Freddy Tylicki Takes the Stand in Lawsuit Against Fellow Rider, (Nov. 29, 2021) https://paulickreport.com/news/the-biz/shout-for-survival-paralyzed-jockey-freddy-tylicki-takes-the-stand-in-lawsuit-against-fellow-rider/ (quoting Gibbons’ defense attorney).  See Stewart-Moore, Supra footnote 1 (“The court concluded that on the balance of probability Mr Gibbons did know (or at the very least ought to have known) that Mr Tylicki was to his inside at the point Mr Gibbons began to bring his horse back to the rail and that he certainly knew of his presence after he heard the shout ‘Gibbo’ from Mr Tylicki. The court found that after the initial contact between the two horses, Mr Gibbons had a further opportunity ‘to act in a way that may have avoided the second collision, namely by then moving out to the left away from Nellie Dean…’ but that instead he ‘continued pulling across to the rail which gave Nellie Dean no space.’”). See id.  See id. (highlighting Gibbons had reason to be aware of Tylicki).  See id. (providing Gibbons’, as a professional athlete, had the opportunity to control the situation). See id. See id.  See id. (discussing effects on the United States courts). Additionally, during the hearing, Gibbon’s attorney argued that finding negligence in a race competition would generate litigation. Id. ( “If what we say is a racing incident of the type that occurred here, albeit one with absolutely tragic consequences for one of the jockeys concerned, if that type of incident will tend to generate litigation and interest from the lawyers, then it is not difficult to see that that will have multiple ramifications which may create all sorts of difficulties for professional sport, not just horse racing.”). See id. See id. See id. See id. See id. See id.  See id. (providing a higher threshold for professional athletes). “This is of potential relevance to all sports where professional (or even simply experienced) participants are required to make quick decisions and adjustments which could result in injury to others.” Id.