Freddy Tylicki wins landmark High Court case against fellow jockey following life-changing fall

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  • Former jockey Freddy Tylicki won his High Court case with a judge ruling that fellow jockey Graham Gibbons was responsible for the fall that resulted in Mr Tylicki’s life-changing injuries.

    Her honour judge Karen Walden-Smith ruled that Mr Gibbons had a “reckless disregard” for Mr Tylicki’s safety in the seconds ahead of the fall, in the 3.20pm mile maiden on the all-weather track at Kempton on 31 October 2016. The case was heard over five days and the judgement released on 21 December.

    Judge Walden-Smith ruled that Mr Gibbons “knew, or at the very least ought to have known” where Mr Tylicki and Nellie Deen were, when he steered his horse, Madame Butterfly, across Nellie Deen’s racing line.

    The judgement states that Madame Butterfly’s flank bumped Nellie Deen’s shoulder and Mr Tylicki’s boot, at which point Mr Tylicki shouted “Gibbo”. He took a hard pull to slow Nellie Deen, but Mr Gibbons continued to bring Madam Butterfly to the rail and the horses clipped heels, resulting in the fall. Two other horses fell and another rider was thrown in the incident. Mr Tylicki was paralysed in the fall and is in a wheelchair for life.

    The judge concluded that in this case, the actions of Mr Gibbons were “not mere lapses of concentration or inattentiveness”.

    “The actions of Mr Gibbons were, for the reasons I have found and based on the detailed evidence I have scrutinised, undertaken in reckless disregard for the safety of Mr Tylicki,” she said.

    “In the circumstances of this particular race, I have therefore found that liability has been made out.

    “In making that finding, I stress that the threshold of liability for negligence is a high one and has been determined as made out in this case, on its own particular facts. The finding does not set a precedent either within horseracing or in sport generally.”

    A figure for compensation was not set by the court, although the claim is expected to be in the millions.

    The case marks the first time in British courts that a jockey has successfully made a claim against a fellow rider in a race.

    While Judge Walden-Smith stated that the case is “not the thin edge of the wedge” and “does not set a precedent”, it has sent shockwaves through the sporting world and raises a number of other questions.

    These include jockey insurance, in terms of availability and cost, and how stewards deal with enquiries.

    The judge queried why the stewards did not opt to adjourn the enquiry that happened minutes after the race, to allow for more time to review the evidence and to speak to more jockeys. The enquiry, which ruled the incident was accidental, lasted a matter of minutes and heard from two jockeys, one of which was Mr Gibbons, but did not include any of the four who had fallen.

    But the judge added it would be “harsh” to criticise the stewards too severely when the court has had days to cross-examine on expert evidence before reaching its conclusion.

    Following the judgement, Mr Tylicki said it has taken five years for him and his legal team to “overcome the injustice of the stewards’ enquiry”.

    “I remain extremely disappointed that the stewards felt it was appropriate to conclude in a matter of minutes that my fall was caused by an accidental clipping of heels without hearing from any of the four jockeys brought down by what has now been found to be Mr Gibbons’ reckless riding,” he said, thanking his legal team, family and those who assisted in the case. “I am pleased that the court has agreed with me that the stewards’ failure to adjourn the hearing in order to carry out a more thorough investigation was very surprising in the circumstances.”

    He added: “Today’s result has finally provided me with closure and I look forward to putting this all behind me and moving on with my life. I hope though that this judgement acts as a reminder that competing in a dangerous sport like horseracing is no justification for competing with a reckless disregard for the safety of your fellow competitors.

    “I hope also that this case causes the [British Horseracing Authority; BHA] to investigate why its stewards make about one finding of dangerous riding every 10 years and whether that is in reality any kind of deterrent at all.”

    A BHA spokesman said it will consider the judgement in detail and carefully assess what implications it may hold for British racing, in discussion with industry stakeholders.

    He added that there have been “significant reforms” to stewarding in Britain since the incident in 2016.

    “However, this is an issue that we continually monitor and one area that we will of course discuss with our participants and their representative bodies in light of this judgement,” said the spokesman.

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