$175k awarded in Madison County trial over escaped race horses

Amelia Flood Sep. 22, 2010, 2:53am

A Madison County jury considering injuries stemming from the escape of race horses two years ago awarded plaintiff Shaun Lievers of Bunker Hill $175,000 Tuesday after an hour and a half of deliberations.

Lievers sued Alice and Lannie Yates for more than $75,000 in damages, claiming that the Yateses did not take the proper precautions to prevent their race horses from escaping from a pasture along Illinois State Route 159 near Moro Road in December 2008.

Lievers claimed that after seeing two horses strike the mini van driving in front of him, he swerved to avoid hitting another horse, tearing cartilage in his right shoulder.

Lievers took the stand Monday morning, telling jurors that the horses "came out of the darkness."

"I was scared," Lievers recalled.

Lievers testified he heard "a pop" come from his right shoulder as he swerved to avoid hitting the horse.

Although no horse hair was found on Liever's car, he testified that he believed he had "clipped it."

Lievers admitted he refused an ambulance at the time of the accident although he sought medical help the next day after attempting to work.

Lievers agreed with evidence presented by his attorney, D. Keith Short, that his medical bills and lost wages due to the shoulder injury amounted to over $59,000.

After the defense opened with the testimony of an Illinois state trooper who was called the scene, Lannie Yates took the stand.

He testified that he and his wife, Alice, had more than 40 years of experience with horses.

After walking jurors through the routines of raising horses and caring for them, Yates turned to the night of the accident.

Lannie Yates testified that the December incident was one of only two in his farm's history.

Defense attorney David Hesi asked his client questions about the fencing and other precautions he took to prevent the horses from escaping.

"Why was it you didn't put seven foot fences around the pasture?" Hesi asked.

"There's probably no such thing as a seven foot fence for horses," Lannie Yates said. "We just felt like our facilities are very adequate."

Previous testimony in the case indicated that the pasture fence in place at the time of the accident was about four feet high.

Yates said that while he could guess his horses jumped it on the night of the accident, he and his wife never found out exactly how the horses escaped.

The defense resumed after the lunch break.

D. Keith Short represented Lievers.

Although the case was assigned to Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack, Madison County Associate Judge Thomas Chapman presided over the trial.

The trial opened Monday with jury selection, opening statements and the beginning of the plaintiff's case.

The verdict in the case was entered just after 3:30 p.m. with attorneys conferring with their respective clients shortly afterward.

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

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