A Horse Named Mississippi

On an early February evening in 2012, plaintiffs were riding a brown horse named Mississippi on a public road in Calcasieu Parish. It was beginning to get dark outside and the plaintiffs were wearing dark clothes. Mississippi was not outfitted with any form of illumination. As a motor vehicle approached Mississippi from behind going approximately 45 miles per hour, a passenger in the vehicle noticed the horse at the last moment, but it was too late. The vehicle struck the horse and the plaintiffs sustained bodily injuries.

Plaintiffs filed suit against the driver of the vehicle and his auto liability insurer. The trial court found the driver 100% at fault for causing the accident and awarded plaintiffs damages totaling $24,931.50. On appeal, defendants argued that the lower court erred by finding that plaintiffs were not obligated to outfit Mississippi with lights and/or hazard signs. In rejecting this argument, the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeals noted that the law only requires animal drawn vehicles to be outfitted with lights and that there is no express requirement that ridden animals be similarly outfitted. Nonetheless, the appellate court held reduced defendants’ percentage of fault to 50% based on overwhelming evidence of the plaintiffs’ negligence. In best summarizing the logic of the case, the court stated that “riding a dark horse in dark clothing at dusk is simply unwise.”

Prejean v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co., et al