$450,000 SETTLEMENT - RUNAWAY HORSE ON ROAD CAUSES CAR DRIVER’S DEATH

A Lodi golf course worker on his way to work on a rural public road at 5:30 a.m. collided with a horse and a pony standing in the road. The impact caused the horse to land on the hood of the car and smash through the windshield killing the driver. Incredibly, the California Highway Patrol investigation found the driver responsible for the accident for driving at an unsafe speed for conditions. We challenged the conclusion of the police and were able to prove that because of the darkness with no streetlights, it would be impossible for a driver traveling within the speed limit to see the animals in the road in time to stop or avoid them. Unfortunately, the horse and pony were owned by a tenant who had no insurance and had fled to Mexico. It appeared there would be no financial recovery for the four children and grandchild of the driver. We accepted this difficult case and undertook an extensive investigation. We focused on finding out how and why the horse and pony had escaped. The defense contended the tenant left the corral gate open which allowed the animals to get out. We sued the absentee property owners who had allowed the tenant to board the horse and pony on the property. We obtained the lease and discovered that the landowners retained the right to make repairs on the property and, in fact, had made repairs of the fence in the past. We proved the owners of the property were responsible for the poorly maintained fences that allowed the animals to get out onto the public road. Prior to trial we recovered the entire amount of liability insurance coverage.