Wife of Dead Jockey Awarded $7.8 million


In a wrongful death case heard in Pennsylvania, a jury favored with the widowed wife by awarding almost $8 million in damages. The plaintiff’s complaint alleged the defendant, Parx Casino and Racetrack, acted negligently by failing to ensure that no chickens were allowed on or the near racetrack.

The plaintiff’s complaint states that on May 30, 2010, her husband Mario Calderon was killed while he was jogging his horse around the track when a chicken on the racetrack caused Calderon’s horse to buck and drop Calderon. Calderon fell to one side with his foot caught in the stirrups and was dragged and trampled for about 40 seconds until his foot finally slipped out his boot. Calderon was rushed to hospital with multiple fractures to his ribs, a collapsed lung, and significant trauma to his face. Calderon was pronounced dead shortly after his arrival.

The plaintiff alleged that Parx Casino was aware of the dangers that chickens present to riders for over a decade, starting in 1999. Allegedly there were numerous chickens present on the premises, some of which were owned by the employees. Furthermore, a rider was injured in a similar fashion about five months prior to Calderon’s accident when a horse was spooked by a chicken. The defendant attempted to remove a handful of the chickens in 2010, but failed to make any further effort to remove all the chicken from the property. Parx Casino and Racetrack continued to allow scores of chickens to live in and around the premise for an extended period of time.

Following a week-and-a-half trial, the jury awarded the wife about $7.8 million, including nearly $2.3 million in Wrongful Death Act damages, $500,000 in Survival Act damages and $5 million in punitive damages.

Negligence: The Important of Notice

Five elements are required to establish a prima facie case of negligence: (1) the existence of a legal duty to exercise reasonable care; (2) a failure to exercise reasonable care; (3) cause in fact of physical harm by the negligent conduct; (4) physical harm in the form of actual damages; and (5) proximate cause, a showing that the harm is within the scope of liability.

A property owner who fails to exercise reasonable care is liable for dangerous conditions on the property when the property owner was on notice. This means the owner either knew or should have known about the dangerous conditions but did not act to fix the hazard or warn others about the dangers. There are two types of notice: actual and constructive.

Actual vs. Constructive Notice

When the property owner actually knows about the danger, the property owner is said to have actual notice. On the other hand, constructive notice occurs when the hazard is so obvious that the person should have known about it. The law places the responsibility on the property owner to perform periodic inspections. Owners should either fix the dangers or provide warning signs, and this is especially true of business establishments.

Injuries occur every day to innocent victims who are harmed through no fault of their own due to the actions, or lack thereof, of others. It is critical to have a legal team on your side that uncovers every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award. Contact our experienced personal injury attorneys at Solnick & Associates, LLC today at 215-481-9979 for a free consultation.

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