(John Disney/Daily Report)
Buster’s owner said he was a “lazy gentleman,” but an equestrian magazine advertisement portrayed him as a skittish horse in need of a calming supplement.
The contradiction cost Buster’s owners $300,000 in a policy-limit insurance settlement that ended a four-year lawsuit in Broward Circuit Court over a riding accident.
Marc Wites of Wites & Kapetan in Lighthouse Point said Connie Tidwell and Michele Richards, the horse’s owners, settled with his client, Joni Garvin.
Garvin was a lifelong horse rider who wanted to ride only docile horses due to her advancing age. It was only after being reassured Buster was a calm horse that she agreed to ride him at the Sand-n-Spurs stable in Pompano Beach.
Buster was spooked and threw Garvin, who suffered vertebrae fractures that required surgery. Her doctors said she will never be able to ride again.
As the lawsuit progressed, there was limited evidence available to Garvin, and she settled for what she considered an insufficient amount.
A few days later, an anonymous package was sent to her attorney with the ad spotlighting Buster as a success story for Ex Stress, a supplement for horses that spooked easily. Tidwell was quoted as saying Buster “can be a little difficult at times. What a difference it made in him.” The characterization was the opposite of how the owners described the horse throughout litigation.
A motion to set aside the settlement was denied, but Wites prevailed in 2012 at the Fourth District Court of Appeal.
On remand and during a second deposition, Tidwell called the mysterious delivery a “stab in the back” by someone “poking their nose” in her business.