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Equestrian Blames City Worker for Spooked Horse, Injuries

A Laguna Niguel resident has filed a claim with the city for more than $25,000.

A Laguna Niguel woman says a inattentive city worker spooked her horse while she was riding a trail in San Juan Capistrano, causing the horse to throw her and injuring her greatly.

Through her lawyers, Janelle Robinson, 45, has filed a claim with the city of San Juan Capistrano, often a precursor to a lawsuit, asking for more than $25,000 to reimburse her for her medical costs.

The City Council will consider the claim at its meeting Tuesday. Staff is recommending the council deny it.

Robinson and a friend were riding on a city trail just south of the J.F. Shea Therapeutic Riding Center Nov. 15, 2011 when they noticed a grounds worker up ahead, according to the claim, written by three attorneys from an Aliso Viejo firm, Assanti & Associates. 

They called to the worker, but he did not respond, the complaint states.

“As they got closer, he suddenly appeared from behind the bushes and spooked the horses,” the lawyers wrote. “The horse that Janelle was riding threw her off and fell on top of Janelle.”

Robinson suffered a broken pelvis, hip and arm as well as internal bleeding, according to the claim. Her medical bills total more than $25,000 and are still coming in.

“To the present, it is difficult for Janelle Robinson to move around, she cannot work, or ride horses at this time,” the lawyers wrote.

Robinson contends that the city worker was negligent and may have been wearing headphones or ear protection.

“He should have known that horses use the trail and are easily spooked by sudden movement or loud noises and should have been cautious in his actions,” the claim states.

The council meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 32400 Paseo Adelanto in San Juan Capistrano.

James F September 28, 2012 at 04:14 AM
Horses are unpredictable to begin with. How is this the workers fault? Just another person who wants something for nothing. Prime example of why we pay out the ears in taxes.
Lauren September 28, 2012 at 03:22 PM
I'm very sorry for the injuries Janelle suffered but I'm extremely disappointed that "one of us", a horse rider, has decided o sue for injuries. She knew riding a horse has the potential for death. It is one of the risks we knowingly take every time we are around horses. She is doing a greater dis-service and damage to the horse community in general every time we want to ride on private property or try to gain access to areas to ride. Shame on her for not having health insurance to cover her injuries so she didn't have to sue.
Lon Uso September 28, 2012 at 07:25 PM
What if it had been a dog, a cougar, a hiker, a biker, etc. When you ride on city trails you accept the risks. Otherwise, people that don't have the best interest of the equestrian community will use this excuse to start pushing horses out of town. If you don't think it is possible just look at all the other cities that USED TO have great equestrian facilities and trails in OC. BTW, I hope that we have better attorneys defending the City than with SJ Creek Rd. or Scalzo
Susan September 29, 2012 at 10:00 PM
This claim is ridiculous, but not surprising. Why can't this rider take responsibility for her own actions. Is it the workers fault that the rider could not control her horse? How sad for the city.
Lon Uso September 29, 2012 at 11:40 PM
It is sad, it is a sad commentary on our new society were people refuse to take responsibility for their own incompetence and stupidity. She is responsible for controlling her horse under any conditions and if she can't she should either not ride or accept the consequences.

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