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The Horse's Tort

A local racetrack has been advertising quite a bit on the Boston stations. When I hear their ad I am reminded of a case I had against them more than 20 years ago when a horse kicked a client and fractured the client’s patella. We sued the racetrack and naturally the owner of the horse. The owner of the horse came from Texas and just happened to have had some horses, including the offending one, in Massachusetts for a short while during the racing season. When I brought suit, the Texas owner had a Boston attorney file a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. I was surprised because clearly this horse, by then located in Texas, caused “tortuous injury by an act or omission in this Commonwealth.” M.G.L.c. 223A S. 3, “Transactions or Conduct for Personal Jurisdiction”. That statute allows for jurisdiction if the defendant transacts business in the Commonwealth, supplies services or things in the Commonwealth, derives substantial revenue from goods used or consumed in the Commonwealth, and so forth. It was the tortious injury part of 223A which made me confident that I had jurisdiction over the horse or, more accurately, over the Texan owner. Fortunately, the judge agreed and the case proceeded. In actuality, the jurisdictional issue was easy, contrary to the defense attorney’s impression, because the horse caused a Massachusetts injury. But it bears noting that jurisdiction is just as easily established if a producer or merchandiser brings, or has delivered, something to the state which causes injury despite the producer/merchandiser not having a presence in Massachusetts.

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