Experts say equestrian employers can take heart from an appeal court ruling.
Judi Thurloe – who runs a hireling, livery and sport horse business – has successfully appealed a court payout of £17,250 to a groom who broke her ankle.
Marta Kozlowska was in the fourth week of her employment as a groom and rider at Judi Thurloe Sportshorses near York when she jumped from a seven-year-old thoroughbred after he slipped while cantering down a muddy hill just before Christmas in 2005.
Miss Kozlowska, who has since returned to Poland, claimed she should have been supervised more closely.
And Judge Michael Handley, sitting at York County Court, found in her favour in September 2010.
But on 2 March, an Appeal Court judge overruled Judge Handley’s decision, stripped Miss Kozlowska of her payout and ordered a retrial.
Mrs Thurloe told H&H the groom had been told to ride a different horse – a 10-year-old cob – but she swapped with another rider, and to ride up the field, not down, in walk and trot.
However, Miss Kozlowska’s barrister Johnathan Payne described his client as “an accident waiting to happen“.
“She was regarded by Mrs Thurloe’s staff as an incompetent novice,” he said.
“She should have been teamed up with someone more experienced,” he concluded.
The case could set an interesting precedent as to how far employers must go to safeguard their staff.
“It is simply impractical to suggest that my client should be riding out with these people every day,” said Mrs Thurloe’s barrister, Georgina Cursham.
“The [first] judge was wrong – an employer’s duty is not that of an insurer.”
Her views are echoed by solicitor Richard Brooks of Withy King Solicitors, who has been following the case.
“Employees do have responsibility to look after themselves,” he said.
“If they put themselves in harm’s way, especially by deliberately ignoring their boss’s instructions, then they are not going to find much favour in the courts.”
This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (15 March 2012)