Jockey’s allowance raises issue of rider’s liability in Freddy Tylicki case

The body which represents professional jockeys in Ireland is unable to secure indemnity insurance for its members and believes this could pose a fundamental problem for racing.

The issue of indemnity insurance for riders has come to the fore following the £6million High Court case in England brought by jockey Freddy Tylicki against his former colleague Graham Gibbons.

Tylicki was left paralyzed in a fall at Kempton in October 2016 and argued there had been a ‘breach of the standard of care’ between competing jockeys which led to his mount colliding with a horse ridden by Gibbons.

Gibbons’ defense rejected that and said a ruling against him could “open the floodgates” for similar claims in the future.

The body which represents professional jockeys in Ireland is unable to secure indemnity insurance for its members and believes this could pose a fundamental problem for racing. Photography: Mark Evans/Getty Images

The verdict is expected before Christmas.

The Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) in Britain has indemnity cover for its members, but not its equivalent in Ireland, the Irish Jockeys Association (IJA).

Former champion jockey Ruby Walsh recently predicted that every rider here will have to take cover if Tylicki is successful.

On Tuesday, IJA Secretary Andrew Coonan backed Walsh’s concerns and said he believed racing authorities on both sides of the Irish Sea had failed to understand the importance of the case, regardless of the outcome.

“I think the Tylicki case will raise many questions to consider, not the least of which is the fact that in any decision by the stewards where a rider is deemed to have ridden negligently, for example, can that in itself give rise to a protest by another rider or another owner or trainer of a horse that has suffered interference or injury?

“And to me that’s a very wide implication to that and which I think probably hasn’t been fully addressed or assessed by the governing bodies of this jurisdiction or the UK,” he commented. .

“We have had cases in the past of riders suing racetracks for injuries they suffered and were successful at them.

“We now have a very real situation of a rider suing another rider for some very serious bodily injury they suffered. If this case is successful, and even if it isn’t, it doesn’t escape the fact that at some point a court may very well decide that a rider is liable,” Coonan added.

Coonan, a lawyer and former amateur jockey, said the IJA had repeatedly sought insurance compensation similar to that of the PJA, but had been unable to obtain it.

“I’ve always watched this with my lawyer’s hat on and felt there was a need to put professional indemnity coverage in place for runners. The difficulty of obtaining this compensation cover is now considerable and any claim of course makes it more expensive,” he said.

“We inquired with many insurance companies about this. Through our colleagues in the UK (PJA) we even sought to use the same broker as them and were unable to secure insurance cover,” he added.

Coonan said the jockeys’ association has been trying to address the issue since a case was brought in Britain 20 years ago by former jockey Peter Caldwell.

The jockeys' association has been trying to settle the issue of riders' liability since a case brought in Britain 20 years ago by former jockey Peter Caldwell.  Photography: Keith Birmingham/Getty Images

The jockeys’ association has been trying to settle the issue of riders’ liability since a case brought in Britain 20 years ago by former jockey Peter Caldwell. Photography: Keith Birmingham/Getty Images

He was injured in a crash at Hexham in 1994 and brought action against Adrian Maguire and Mick Fitzgerald.

The judge in that case ruled in favor of the defendants and ruled that the incident “reflected the cut and thrust of serious horse racing. . . in theory avoidable but in practice something that has to happen from time to time, no matter how carefully you drive.

Whatever the outcome of the Tylicki case, Coonan believes it will highlight the risk of indemnity coverage for insurance companies versus riders.

“It’s not that this case raises problems. There have always been problems. It’s just that this case brought them into focus,” he said.

Wednesday’s racing action in Ireland takes place in all weathers at Dundalk where Tony Martin can land the first applicant with Nibiru.

Team Martin appear to be in good form recently, winning with the well supported Gain De Cause over the hurdles at Punchestown on Sunday.

Earnest L. Veasey