Waterhouse faces horse crash bill for hundreds of thousands

TWO women injured in a collision with a horse trained by Gai Waterhouse in 2001 suffered serious injuries and were entitled to hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation, a Supreme Court judge found yesterday.

Natalie Petrovic, now 24, and her mother, Ruzica Petrovic, now 59, had sued Gai Waterhouse Racing and the Australian Jockey Club for more than $3 million for physical and “catastrophic psychological injuries”.

Justice Peter Hidden found the women had suffered enduring psychological and physical effects from the collision in Alison Road, Randwick, in the early afternoon of January 22, 2001.

Honour And Strength, weighing 500 kilograms, was one of several horses, apparently startled by the noise of a car, that escaped from their strappers and kicked down a gate.

Honour And Strength left the racecourse and galloped across the road. It tried to jump the Petrovics’ car but landed on the roof and windscreen. The horse crushed the roof, and its hooves went through the windscreen.

The horse was badly injured and had to be put down, and the women were injured by the crushed roof. In April 2005 Waterhouse and the club admitted negligence.

Waterhouse is in England, so did not attend the brief hearing yesterday at which Justice Hidden rejected the claim by her and the club that any physical or psychological injury the two women had suffered had not been serious. He did find the women might have exaggerated their conditions.

Of Natalie Petrovic, Justice Hidden said: “I am satisfied that, as a result of the accident, she has suffered serious and enduring psychological injury. I am also satisfied that she suffers from the physical disabilities of which she complains, even though not all of them might have an organic basis.

“The defendants assert that she has fabricated or exaggerated her symptoms, physical and psychological, for financial gain … I reject that assertion.

“The very fact that she went to university for as long as she did, and returned to part-time work for a period, demonstrates that she tried to put the experience of the accident behind her to get on with her life. Unfortunately, she was unsuccessful.”

Ruzica Petrovic had gone through “a terrifying experience in which she feared for both their lives”. She had suffered “a major psychological injury, from which she may receive a measure of relief over time but from which she will never recover”.

Justice Hidden accepted that injuries to her knee, right leg and back were attributable to the accident, although he accepted she might have exaggerated them.

“I reject the defendants’ case, put against Mrs Petrovic as against her daughter, that she is malingering and that she is entitled to no more than a modest award of damages … This woman’s life has been gravely affected by the accident.”

Justice Hidden allowed $119,000 for Natalie Petrovic and $115,000 for her mother. He invited submissions on the final amount of damages. This is expected to be decided next month.

English 2007 Copyright John Fairfax Holdings Limited. www.smh.com.au Malcolm Brown – 513 Words 20 June 2007 The Sydney Morning Herald

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