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Turcotte v. Fell

Court of Appeals of New York
502 N.E.2d 964 (1986)


Ronald Turcotte was a professional jockey. Turcotte was riding in a race in a facility owned and operated by the New York Racing Association (NYRA). Turcotte had participated in three prior races at the same track on that day. Jeffrey Fell was riding in the lane next to Turcotte, on a horse owned by David Reynolds. Turcotte’s horse tripped and fell, throwing Turcotte to the ground, and causing injuries that left Turcotte a paraplegic. Turcotte and his wife (plaintiffs) sued Fell, Reynolds, and NYRA (defendants). Turcotte argued that Fell breached a duty to use reasonable care to avoid crossing into Turcotte’s lane of travel, in violation of the rules of professional racing; that Reynolds was liable under the doctrine of respondent superior; and that NYRA negligently and improperly watered the racetrack, creating unsafe “cupping” conditions. Turcotte testified that the danger of a horse veering into another lane is inherent in horseracing, and that cupping conditions were common on racetracks and that he had experienced them before. The lower court granted summary judgment in favor of Fell and Reynolds, finding that Turcotte, by engaging in horseracing, relieved the other race participants of any duty of reasonable care relating to horseracing’s known dangers or risks, and that Fell and Reynolds did not engage in reckless or intentionally harmful conduct. The court denied NYRA’s motion for summary judgment, finding that there were questions of fact as to whether it negligently maintained the racetrack. The appellate division affirmed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Simons, J.)

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