A recent article in DRI’s The Voice highlights a win by RWGM partner Matthew “Jim” Kelly. The following summarizes the article and the outcome of the matter.
Jim obtained summary judgment and dismissal of the complaint in favor of the Rocking Horse Ranch, a resort in the Catskill Mountains. The Plaintiff came to the Ranch for horseback riding and while attempting to mount the horse he fell and suffered substantial injuries to his back, which caused aggravation of other pre-existing conditions. The Plaintiff claimed that the Resort failed to assist him in mounting the horse and that the mounting block was defective.
Carl J. Abraham, a professional safety engineer, testified on behalf of the Plaintiff in support of his contention that the Ranch was negligent in failing to assist him and to insure reasonably safe conditions for the operation. Rocking Horse Ranch claimed that there are inherent risks involved in horseback riding, including mounting and dismounting. Additionally, the Resort demonstrated that its personnel are certified by the Certified Horsemanship Association (“CHA”), and that Mr. Abraham had no expertise in horseback riding, nor any proper foundation for his opinions.
The Court agreed that Mr. Abraham was not qualified to opine on horseback riding and specifically quoted from established case law that, “where, as here, an expert’s ultimate assertions are speculative or unsupported by any evidentiary foundation … the opinion should be given no probative force and is insufficient to withstand summary judgment.” The Court further agreed with the Defendants that with regard to horseback riding, the risks are so perfectly obvious that even a relatively inexperienced participant should be charged with knowledge of them.