Compensation for Owners of 21 Horses Fatally Poisoned in 2009
In 2009 tragedy struck the International Polo Club, Palm Beach and the polo community when out of the blue 21 horses from the Lechuza US Open team collapsed and died shortly before their third round match of the 26 goal tournament. All four members of Victor Vargas’ until then successful team lost horses: Vargas lost 12, Juan Martin Nero five and Sapo Caset and Nicolas Espain lost two each. The horses were injected with a supplement that contained 100 times the Selenium originally prescribed by veterinarian Dr. James Belden and supplied by pharmacy Franck’s Lab. Franck’s Lab representatives allegedly entered an incorrect formula which resulted in the increased levels of the drug, ultimately killing the horses. The horses’ insurer, Diamond State Insurance (the company under which the horses were insured), as well as the horses’ owners, Quorum Management and the three professional polo players, claimed Franck’s Lab pharmacist Anthony Campbell and Belden were responsible for negligently producing the supplement and failing to discover the error before the horses were injected.
In early March 2016 a legal case ensued in which plaintiffs were seeking more than $4 million in compensation for the loss of the 21 horses that were fatally poisoned due to the clerical error of Franck’s Lab. On Friday 11 March the jurors awarded more than $2.5 million to the owners and insurer of 21 horses. The jury’s verdict cleared Belden and Dr. Frank Crespo, the team vet who injected the horses with the supplement, of liability.
Friday’s award included $1,097,000 to Diamond State Insurance for a portion of its pay-out on a policy covering Quorum’s lost horses. Jurors awarded Quorum nearly $290,000, and the three individual plaintiffs a total of $1.13 million for the loss of their horses.
Polo Times’ Katie Vickery spoke to Sapo Caset, who lost two horses to the tragedy, “To be honest what makes me happy is that it’s over. For several years we have been struggling with the case and nobody has accepted fault. I lost my two best mares of the moment and no one until today has given us an answer. In terms of the economic settlement I am happy, but the thing it will never make up for is that that year we were about to get to the Final of The US Open or for what we went through, which was, without a doubt one of the worst, if not the worst, moment of my career. I am happy to finally have some answers”
Photograph: Julieta, C.V. Whitney Best Playing Pony in 2009 before her sad demise. Courtesy of Victor Vargas