Trial opens in personal injury suit involving escaped race horses

Amelia Flood Sep. 20, 2010, 11:32am

The trial of a man's personal injury suit stemming from an incident involving escaped race horses opened Monday with jury selection and the beginning of the plaintiff's case.

Plaintiff's attorney D. Keith Short told jurors that the defendants in the case, Lannie and Alice Yates, wanted to avoid taking responsibility for the damages caused by their escaped animals.

Defense counsel David Hesi pointed to a long record of safe handling at his clients' farm and discrepancies in what happened the night of the accident.

Short's client, Shaun Lievers, is suing the Yateses for damages in excess of $75,000 and other relief.

Lievers claimed to have suffered a severe cartilage tear in attempting to avoid hitting the Yates' escaped race horses when he encountered them in the road near the intersection of Illinois State Route 159 and Moro Road.

Lievers claims the defendants failed to keep their horses under proper control in December 2008.

Short cited an incident one month prior the December accident when two of the Yates' horses escaped from a training arena, entered the roadway and had to be put down due to their injuries after a motorist hit them.

"You'll hear them say they did everything reasonable to keep those horses from injuring anyone," Short told jurors. "We're here because they won't accept responsibility for their animals."

Short emphasized the skittish nature of young horses as well as the prior incident.

Hesi, speaking for the defense, told the jury that the two 2008 incidents were the only times in his clients' more than 30 years of raising horses that something had happened.

"Just because it didn't work once, it's unreasonable?" Hesi asked the jury.

Hesi also disputed that his clients had been irresponsible and that their precautions were not enough to prevent the plaintiff's injuries.

Hesi also told the jurors that there were disputes about the basic facts of the case including whether or not Lievers actually hit any horses at all.

After opening statements, a former stable hand of the Yateses took the stand.

The trial will continue Tuesday.

Madison County Associate Judge Thomas Chapman presides.

The case is Madison case number 09-L-723.

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