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Jockey's Family Wins $7.8M for Racetrack Death

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. | Last updated on

A jockey's family has been awarded $7.8 million in a lawsuit against a racetrack in Pennsylvania where the jockey died nearly four years ago.

Mario Calderon, the jockey, died after being dragged and repeatedly kicked by the horse he was exercising. Calderon also suffered broken ribs and a bleed on his brain, according to Philadelphia's KYW-TV.

Calderon's family sued the racetrack for allegedly creating an unsafe working environment which caused his death.

Wrongful Death

Wrongful death lawsuits are usually brought by surviving, close family members of the deceased when a death is caused by someone else's negligence.

In order to bring a wrongful death cause of action, the following elements must usually be present:

  • The person who died is a human being,
  • The death is caused by another's negligence or with an intent to cause harm,
  • Surviving family members are suffering monetary injury as a result of the death, and
  • A personal representative has been appointed for the decedent's estate.

In Pennsylvania, wrongful death actions can be brought by the personal representatives of the deceased for the benefit of those people entitled by law to recover damages for the death. Under the statute, personal representatives are executors or administrators of the deceased's estate.

When Are Punitive Damages Awarded?

More than half of the damages awarded to Calderon's family come out of punitive damages -- $5 million to be exact, reports KYW-TV.

Punitive damages are awarded with the intention to punish the wrongdoer. Unlike actual damages, which can be calculated, punitive damages are used to "teach a lesson" and punish the defendant for outrageous conduct.

In Pennsylvania, punitive damages can be awarded when the defendant's acts are the result of reckless indifference to the rights of others or done with an evil or malicious motive.

Calderon was killed in a riding accident when his horse got spooked by roaming chickens at the Parx Casino & Racetrack. Parx allegedly created an unsafe environment by allowing the chickens to roam on the track, and a jockey had previously been injured when a chicken scared his horse, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. So it seems Parx was aware of the risk the chickens created, but didn't get rid of them.

According to Calderon's attorney, the family hopes the lawsuit will force Parx to take responsibility for a preventable death.

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