Paralysed rider sues motorcyclist for spooking horse

  • A Sussex woman left paralysed after falling from her horse is seeking massive compensation, claiming a teenage motorcyclist caused her mount to bolt.

    Shelley Jane Brown, 47, from Hove, claims the noise from Ian Surry’s 250cc trail bike spooked her horse, Tommy, causing him to panic, jump a gate, and throw her off.

    The former social worker broke her back in the 2006 accident near Shoreham-by-Sea, and is now facing a lifetime in a wheelchair, London’s High Court has heard.

    Mr Surry, 16 at the time, was uninsured and unqualified to ride such a powerful bike, Ms Brown’s counsel, Gordon Bebb QC, told the court.

    Ms Brown is therefore claiming damages from the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB), the industry body that compensates victims of uninsured drivers.

    But the MIB hotly disputes Ms Brown’s claim that Mr Surry was driving “fast, without consideration for other road users and failed to slow down and stop when he saw, or should have seen, her on her horse.”

    Defence lawyers insist that Mr Surry stopped to let the horse pass, that he was not driving too fast and that, in any event, Tommy was prone to acting in a headstrong way.

    Ms Brown, giving her evidence today, told Judge Richard Seymour QC she had been riding since she was a child.

    She bought Tommy in 2003 when he was 10, but said she was having lessons with the horse because he had a “boisterous” nature.

    Benjamin Browne QC, representing the MIB and Mr Surry, asked whether Tommy was the type of horse to be unpredictable and bolt or jump at will.

    “No,” replied Ms Brown.

    Mr Browne argued that, by the time Ms Brown bought Tommy, his character would already have been established and the lessons she undertook with him would not have been enough to “snuff out” his “boisterous nature”.

    Ms Brown said she had not been trying to change his character, merely to gain more control over her horse.

    The court heard the accident occurred close to a sharp bend on a narrow country road on Mill Hill in Shoreham-by-Sea. Ms Brown was riding with her friend, Mark Denyer, who managed to keep control of his mare, despite her rearing up.

    If Judge Seymour finds Mr Surry, of Sandown Road, Southwick, to blame for the tragedy, the Motor Insurer’s Bureau will pay any damages due to Ms Brown.

    No value has yet been put on her claim, however awards of more than £1m are common in such cases.

    The High Court hearing continues.

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