Mother who needed face 'rebuilt' with 20 ops after test riding horse sues ownersKara Goldsmith had her case against the horse’s
keeper, Bradley Patchcott, rejected last year by a County
Court judge, but is still seeking huge damages
A woman who had to have 20 operations to 'rebuild' her face after being thrown off a horse she was considering buying is now battling for huge damages from the animal’s keeper.
In a vital test case for equestrians across the UK, mother of two, Kara Goldsmith, 39, is suing after suffering devastating facial injuries whilst 'test driving' a horse which 'stamped on' her face.
Mrs Goldsmith, who lives in Hallgarth, Consett, County Durham, had her case against the animal’s keeper, businessman Bradley Patchcott, rejected last year by a County Court judge who ruled that riders 'assume the risk of injury' when they decide to mount a horse.
Before and after: Kara Goldsmith, 39, had to have her face 'rebuilt' after a horse 'stamped on' it in 2008
But now she is arguing before London’s Appeal Court that the judge’s approach leaves riders with too little protection under the law.
Her barrister, Richard Stead, said she was an 'experienced rider' before nine-year-old gelding, Red, threw her by 'rearing and bucking violently' during the incident in Stanley, County Durham in March 2008.
Mr Stead explained how Mrs Goldsmith, who lives with her husband Ronald and their two children aged 10 and six, had been trying out the horse with a view to buying him.
The horse was being given away for free, the barrister said, after a fall left Red's previous owner, a female friend of Mr Patchcott, too nervous to ride him.
'Mrs Goldsmith walked trotted and cantered the horse for approximately 20 minutes. On the way back to the stable, in walk, the horse suddenly and without warning reared up full height on his hind legs,' said the barrister.
'He then bucked violently several times. Mrs Goldsmith was thrown from the horse and was then struck in the face by the horse’s hoof.
'Her face was stamped upon by the horse. She has undergone 20 operations to try and rebuild her face and a remarkably good job has been done, but she still suffers persistent pain and is permanently on pain killers.'
Mr Stead said outside court that Mrs Goldsmith had to give up her job after the 'nasty vicious horse', 'caved in' her face.
Experienced rider: Mrs Goldsmith – who had the accident wile test driving a horse – is pictured riding her current mount, Poacher
She is suing former pharmaceutical
company boss, Robert Bradley Patchcott, of Tantobie, Stanley, County
Durham, claiming damages for her terrible injuries, plus loss of
However, in June last year at Newcastle County Court, Judge Christopher Walton ruled she had 'assumed the risk' when she chose to ride Red.
Mr Stead argued the judge’s approach was unfair to Mrs Goldsmith and to every horse rider in England and Wales, leaving them with no legal protection if their mount unexpectedly behaves 'nastily or viciously.'
He said Mrs Goldsmith should have won her case under the Animals Act, which makes keepers of animals 'strictly liable' if they are aware they have particular 'characteristics', not normally found in their species, which create a risk of serious injury.
Mr Stead argued Mr Patchcott knew that Red’s previous owner was getting rid of him after a fall from his back which had caused her to 'lose her confidence,' and should have warned her that the horse was tricky to control.
'The judge wrongly concluded that Mrs Goldsmith voluntarily assumed the risk of injury when in fact the only evidence was that the horse bucked in a violent manner so as to throw her from the horse,' said the barrister.
'Such behaviour could not have been expected from the horse and Mrs Goldsmith would not have ridden the horse if she had been aware of the risk.
'The judge wrongly concluded she voluntarily assumed the risk of injury caused by violent bucking simply by virtue of the fact that she knew that horses could buck when spooked and cause the rider to fall off.'
Mrs Goldsmith with her husband, Ronald, and her two children. She is trying to change the County Court's decision as she believes it leaves riders with too little protection under the law
Benjamin Browne QC, defending Mr Patchcott, said: 'Neither party contended that the horse had a known propensity to buck violently.
'Mrs Goldsmith consented to the risk that the horse could buck. It is obvious that on occasions when a horse bucks it will throw its rider.
'The distinction Mrs Goldsmith seeks to draw is between general knowledge that a horse may buck and throw its rider, and knowledge that a horse may buck so violently that even an experienced rider cannot stay in the saddle.
'It is suggested that she consented to the former but not the latter. Given that the behaviour of horses is unpredictable it is submitted that the County Court judge’s approach was correct.
'Any other approach would produce a wholly unreasonable test', he added.
'The court may need to consider how many bucks may be anticipated in a normal horse and how high such bucks may be – six inches off the ground seven inches eight inches
'Why should strict liability apply to a person who voluntarily gets on the back of a horse
'If it does, you are going to get innocent owners penalised who know nothing of any vicious propensity in their animals.
'It is submitted that this was a nasty, vicious horse and it bucked and reared much more than Mrs Goldsmith could have expected, (but) any horse can buck or rear and you simply don’t know as a rider,' Mr Browne concluded.
Recognising the importance of the case, Lords Justice Longmore, Rimer and Jackson have now reserved their decision until an unspecified later date.