(CN) – A Louisiana man who drove his car into a dark-colored horse at night is not completely at fault, a state appeals court ruled.
Cyril Prejean and Jessyca Steward were riding Mississippi, Prejean’s brown horse, in February 2012. Two other friends were on a white horse, at about 6:25 p.m.
Prejean had been riding all day, and cars were “flying by” on the road, he said. He and his companions yelled at the drivers to slow down.
Russell Horton was driving a GMC Yukon when his wife saw the white horse. She screamed “Oh my God!” as her husband hit the brakes, but the car hit Mississippi and his riders.
Stewart and Prejean were hurt, and Mississippi had to be put down with a gunshot to relieve his suffering.
Prejean and Steward sued Horton and his insurance company, State Farm. The trial court ruled that Horton was 100 percent at fault and awarded the plaintiffs almost $25,000 in damages.
On appeal, Horton argued that he was not completely to blame, as he was traveling between 40-45 mph.
Also, he stated that at the time of the accident Mississippi was a dark horse in the middle of the road, Prejean was wearing dark clothes, and Steward was wearing camouflage.
Horton asserted that Prejean was completely at fault and that he should have had lights on Mississippi.
Judge Sharon Gremillion did not agree.
“Although we agree that it was not the wisest decision to ride a dark horse in the road at dusk, there is simply no legal requirement that a ridden horse be illuminated,” she wrote.
However, Gremillion overturned the trial court’s ruling that Horton must bear all the blame for the accident.
“We do not think that reasonable people could assess Horton with 100 percent of the fault in causing the accident,” she wrote. “Riding a dark horse in dark clothing at dusk is simply unwise.”
She noted that Prejean knew cars were “flying by,” and that several people had reported that horses were traveling in the roadway, “a condition which reasonable people would obviously find dangerous.”
Therefore, Gremillion split the blame evenly between Prejean and Horton.
The award of damages to Prejean was reduced by $500 (the cost of his saddle) and then fifty percent for a total of $8,734.75. The amount of the award of damages to Steward was affirmed at $6,962 but reduced by fifty percent for a total of $3,481.
Gremillion assessed the costs of the appeal equally between the parties.
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