The trial of Tylicki vs. Gibbons is underway in High Court in London, England and the outcome could have wide-ranging consequences for not only horse racing but sports in general.  Former jockey Freddy Tylicki has a £6 million negligence claim against fellow jockey Graham Gibbons for inflicting “life-changing injuries” in a flat race at Kempton in 2016.

Tylicki, who is permanently in a wheelchair, asserts that halfway through a mile race Gibbons recklessly sent his mount Madame Butterfly to the rail, thereby cutting off Tylicki riding Nellie Dean and causing her to fall in a four-horse pileup. Tylicki alleges that Gibbons engaged in riding “dangerous in the extreme” and violated his responsibility as a jockey. 

Further, Tylicki says he yelled a warning to Gibbons not to persist on the path he took with Madame Butterfly.  Court filings state: “As a professional jockey riding in a race under rules the defendant owed the claimant a duty to exercise the reasonable care towards a fellow jockey that is to be expected of an experienced high level professional jockey.”  Gibbons, of course, denies the allegation and cites “split-second” decisions that jockeys must make.

The view here is that if Tylicki prevails, the monetary outlays required of jockeys, at least in Great Britain, would be burdensome because jockeys would need to protect themselves by purchasing liability insurance, which would either be impossible to get or too expensive for most riders.  Moreover, a stewards’ ruling that suspended a jockey for careless riding would be used as evidence in a court case similar to Tylicki vs. Gibbons.

A verdict finding Gibbons liable might set a precedent that spreads to other sports.  Rugby, for instance, is a bloodsport in which participants can and do suffer severe injuries.  Same for boxing.

Imagine in the United States if an NFL player is sued after injuring another player for a hit that a referee flagged for initiating unnecessary contact against a receiver who is in a defenseless posture.  Ice jockey is also replete with such scenarios.

The trial, which began Monday, is expected to last five days.

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