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Claimant ‘caught out’ on Facebook in equine court case

Lawyers say a recent equine court case — in which a claimant was caught out by Facebook — has highlighted the “benefits and pitfalls” of social media.

In July 2009, a pony kept at Petley Wood Equestrian Centre, East Sussex, was injured in the arena when the owner rode over a lunge whip. It snapped and penetrated the pony’s leg, it was claimed.

The owner brought a substantial loss of use claim against the centre, as well as claiming for the cost of surgery and other treatment. But it emerged that the pony was not as badly hurt as was made out.

“Despite bringing a loss of use claim, the claimant had posted some pictures of the horse competing on Facebook that gave us a tool with which to question the credibility of her evidence,” said Clare Garnett, a solicitor at law firm Berrymans Lace Mawer.

“Drawing on such evidence has, in many personal injury cases, been the silver bullet needed to defend a claim. The insurance industry and its agents are becoming wiser to the benefits — and pitfalls — of using social media.”

The owner maintained that the centre was “in breach” of the terms of the livery agreement, in failing to store the lunge whip and schooling jumps outside the riding arena. The centre argued that it was safer to store equipment in the middle of the arena, as horses often spooked if it was packed into the corners. But in the trial, which came to court late last year, the judge found the owner had disregarded the welfare of her pony when she rode through equipment that had been properly stored.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (14 February 2013)

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